Visibly Bursting

As spring bursts around us, my dear friend Walter appears to have found his voice, and it is in Thousand Sketches. It’s a project to put a thousand sketches on the Web in one year. I love the sketches that are there already, and I love the blog where Walter is making his process as visible as the sketches, and where sketches of that process are born, too.

This project is of the Internet. Most of the works are sketched on a tablet PC using simple software. Many are of everyday things, flowers, people and animals. But they are also sketches of sketching, of sketching a thousand sketches. Every click that lands on a sketch will appear in a sketch somewhere. Every comment about the sketches, either on Walter’s blog or somewhere else on the Web will end up in a sketch. Every purchase of a “sponsored link” will change the project. The Internet is creating this project, as it affects and emerges from Walter.

Walter, I love seeing you burst like this into something so simple and beautiful that is flowing so freely. It seems right.

Vinyl Girls

People said they liked my writing. I noticed that I liked writing. I got a little motivated to write, but what? This blog is easy, with my muse, the dead Jane Spears. What else could I write? How could I enter that void of creating something from nothing? It has always fascinated me how writers do it. How they create a compelling story, characters, texture, all from nothing. So I decided to give it a go. I signed up for the writing team on Blood Lovers and that was easy! We had constraints. I had my sister to fight with! We wrote our hearts out for three hours and then saw our work taken and transformed by a team into the movie. I got the bug.

I teamed up with Ron, booked the loan of a camera from Bede and started to think what the hell are we going to do? People were all in the media about MySpace and Bebo and their daughters looking like Manchester Street or being preyed on in their innocence. Danah Boyd came to NZ talking sense and Russell Brown published it in the Listener. I intervewed my kids and they said ‘get over it’, ‘it doesn’t happen’ and ‘if it does, we’re more than capable of handling it’. So Ron and I had a lunch over how we’d handle this. Worked up and rejected a coupla dozen ideas then booked to meet and write on the Friday nite. It ended up starting at about ten, with me phoning the vinyl idea through about half an hour earlier.

By the next afternoon, when the cast, Elsie and her friend Kayla became available for their brief window, we had a rough script, basic props, shooting schedule, lights, camera and action. We shot, directed, stalled Kayla’s mum and got what you see today. Some quick pickups the next day and editing with the most basic shit, Windows Movie Maker. Did the job.

So here it is, my first video, Vinyl Girls (view on YouTube). Enjoy:


If you knew her, you know that Jane kept diaries. Some were private, page-a-day journals. Accounts of her life, a bit like this blog perhaps. I sent years of them to Con, but not ’76 and ’77, yet. They are to go to Con, of course, as the Spears Family Archivist. I’m just not quite ready to part with them, especially the one that Jane was reading to me from, this time last year; the one with the pink post-it tabs for the ‘occurrences’. But the one open in front of me today is of the week-per-two-page-spread type that Jane also kept. I think this is a pretty well-known fact as she received three or four as gifts for both Christmases that we were together for. Each time, one was chosen to have the annual events transposed into it from its predecessor. Events that I use ‘recurring events’ in my electronic diary for, and that Jane may well have migrated to the same medium, enthusiastic user of her CPL iPAQ that she was. Birthdays of family and friends, wedding anniversaries (of both the still-together, and the not), anniversaries of overseas trips commenced and concluded (always noting the year and, if Jane herself was not among them, the participants), the anniversaries of the births and deaths of all her cats (their names mostly beginning with ‘Z’), anniversaries of deaths, acquisitions of properties; the anniversaries of our first meeting in 1976 (2 Nov), and in 2003, the first email I sent to Jane (30 April), our first dinner together in Christchurch (27 June), and our weekend at Rough Creek Lodge in Arthur’s Pass (22-25 Aug) and the day Jane shifted to Christchurch in 2004 (9 April). I’m still to blog all that. But the first half of Jane’s 2005 diary (an Escher one ~ who gave her that?) has liberal sprinklings of day to day and week to week happenings, cycles and trivia. There are departures and returns for holidays (eg Bannockburn Jan 8-12 and Sydney 2-6 April), day trips (eg Tumbledown Bay 14 Jan and Ashely Gorge the day after), movies watched (the source of the incriminating list), sports, social events, book club meetings, rehearsals and uni lectures attended, undergoings of surgery by our friends, collectings of my children, usually Elsie, from various locations, goings out for dinner, a play reading (Lysistrata, April 25, AZAC day) and the day that Jane “took seconds of sausage” (Thu 28 Apr).

I’ve kept this diary open on a shelf in (our/the/)my bedroom since then. Initially , I paid attention to the annually recurring events (mostly in black). This year, I watched the one-offs from ’05 (mostly in blue), and more recently, their abrupt disappearance at the end of July.

On this night, one year ago, Jane and I were enjoying our last evening together. Listening to the “Be Good Tanyas”, as I am now, alone. Though so many have been torn away, the fibres of our relationship, our love that had only just (@#$%ing) begun, remain stretched from my flesh to the woman who wrote those diary entries. It just is. I don’t think I could do anything about it, even if I wanted to. One year on, I sit bolt upright and think “NO! That’s wrong. That hasn’t happened. Not that.” There is no panic, only knowing that it is not possible that Jane is dead. And then the creeping incursion of “actually, …” begins to battle my denial.

As I read my account of the events of a year ago, I want to protest at the use of “Jane” to refer to Jane’s body. I suppose that is progress in the process of acceptance. I know it wasn’t “Jane’s body”, tho. She wasn’t dead. She still isn’t. Circular darned process on this planet.

Of course, there are many circumambulations still to be completed. I know that. This is how you do them, acknowledging anniversaries and stuff.

What Not to Say to Someone When they’re Dead

Janey,… Jane Spears, Jane Kirk Spears, who lived with me in this house, who spent that nice evening with me in this room, before I changed it all about, whose books are on the bookshelf, getting a little dusty (i’m sorry) and whose photos still leap with life, and whose words still ring clear in my ears, who (correction) lives with me in this house, … Jane? What am I going to do with you?

Fact is, that for practical purposes, you are useless to me as a partner. You don’t (nodding to Jack Lasenby) do a hands turn around the place, you don’t answer when I talk to you and you are no fun in bed.

Oh, yeah, no-one said that this whole business had any practical purpose but I’m back at “whatever the purpose of this is, it better be good”. And could somebody please enlighten me as to what that is?? Oh hang on, I had something… Jane came into my life to teach me that I could love and could be loved. That I could, after being scared nearly out of going ahead with it, let myself get close to someone, to be vulnerable with them, to let myself feel the love flowing all around and let myself be seen like that with the actual person. OK, I’m getting that, and then she left to… for me to learn…. ? Oh, hang on. There was something about feeling all this and not dieing myself. Kind of “what doesn’t kill you…” but really, there’s a pretty liberal dose of benefit of the doubt, there.

So I had a reasonable string of good months, Feb and March, evidenced by the lack of woe posts here (that pain muse). Ha! Such fun at the ANZPA conference, returning with such zest for life. Thought it was acceptance. Turned out it was denial. Merest provocation and I was right back in despair, peppered excessively with anger.

I know this isn’t a linear process. It’s navigating once more the thin film between holding on and letting go, with a new clarity on the impossibility of them both.

You might, you could easily say that all this “Jane, you…” is textbook “holding on”; acting exactly if Jane isn’t gone at all, because that’s what it feels like. That’s what I want! But, the inner-home-shrink in me knows that the misery concomitant with this drills the psyche closer to the seat of the pain, inexplicably but inexorably cleaning out the pus and grit from the seat of the wound and allowing it to knit gradually with tender tissue. Holding on, I am unwittingly letting go.

And I attempted letting go. Carried on a little as if nothing had happened. Ah right. I found where that gets me, even when, damn, it was acceptance, I had done dastardly yards of dankness. I was enjoying deserved enjoyment. And yet, slam in my face. Smack at the beginning of the grieving process. First day all over again, and again.

It’s eleven months and one day since that day, Jane Spears. Since I half woke while you gasped your last. And then whole woke with your body dead but you still alive inside me, as you are now. Sure, you are a little faded, and you haven’t aged. How could you, would you have. Oh, ok. How our lives together would be today. How you could walk in the door right now.

I really don’t know whether or how to say this, Jane but at some point, I’m going to be, you know, moving on a little in my life. I’ve already pretty much written off my own lame-arsed-ness or worse, deprivation assumption as the cause of this (Lloyd, tho I loved your email and yes I will definitely do that luck-cursing, raging at the world drinking session with you!), so it’s kind of, Jane, somehow would you, could I let you, want you to, just a little bit move on out of my life, perhaps die properly, like you were actually dead and not just pretending?

Finding a Voice

Dear Walter,

How lovely to read your post and listen to your podcast. But what an irony! I never knew I could do this: could have a voice that was mine, could write anything other than transactional writing and email. Of course, your post reaches me while I’m angry about the very thing, the person who was and is no longer, who has been my muse (that’s a whole other post)! As you say, this has come as the cost of my pain. I don’t think you envy that.

Walter, I know that what pushes down your voice is not the technology, and is not the time, or you being an introvert. It is exposing for me, too. Maybe I’ll come to regret doing this. Professionally, of course, the issues are different for us but, really are they? Do I want my business clients or colleagues reading about my flounderings? It could affect the share price!

So you being a therapist makes it more exposing? Of course, I am familiar with the boundaries around this. The therapist’s business is not the business of the session. As client, one knows that there is a whole life there of which we know nothing – but do we? Did the clients of Freud and Jung have no idea whom they were being treated by? Do the clients of Orbach and Yallom?

Is not the self the primary instrument with which the therapist works? You speak of a professional blog. Client case studies anonymised, perhaps? When you use yourself in your profession, what could you authentically blog about in a professional blog, other than yourself?

You conclude your podcast saying “how do I click stop?”. I think the question is “how do you click start?”

Loving Blood Lovers

Blood Lovers

Year: 2006

Length: 7 minutes

Media: Video

Rating: 5 out of 5

I’ve got a few movie reviews queued up but this one comes first because I helped make it.

The weekend before last, as part of the 48 Hours film competition, I joined a bunch of folks (lots of them Hanna’s friends and church-mates) to make a short film in 48 hours. We got the “monster” genre and the same givens as everybody else. I was in the writing team and then was “1st AD”. With no experience whatsoever, I think that title was a slight overstatement. Notwithstanding, I had a heap of fun. I like our movie, too and feel pretty good about my contribution to it. The judges weren’t as impressed. Perhaps they didn’t put as much emphasis on writing, acting and directing over production values (ours were fairly rough) as we thought they would.

But, decide for yourself.

By the way, watch this space. I have shot my mouth off about writing some scripts so I guess I have to now. Plus, I had such fun on the set and want to get more experience so I’m putting myself out to help on more films. Secret ambition: to be “Second Second Assistant Director” in something decent (and to know what that means).

Tags: movie vampire 48hours

Blood Lovers

Year: 2006

Length: 7 minutes

Media: Video

Rating: 5 out of 5

I’ve got a few movie reviews queued up but this one comes first because I helped make it.

The weekend before last, as part of the 48 Hours film competition, I joined a bunch of folks (lots of them Hanna’s friends and church-mates) to make a short film in 48 hours. We got the “monster” genre and the same givens as everybody else. I was in the writing team and then was “1st AD”. With no experience whatsoever, I think that title was a slight overstatement. Notwithstanding, I had a heap of fun. I like our movie, too and feel pretty good about my contribution to it. The judges weren’t as impressed. Perhaps they didn’t put as much emphasis on writing, acting and directing over production values (ours were fairly rough) as we thought they would.

But, decide for yourself.

By the way, watch this space. I have shot my mouth off about writing some scripts so I guess I have to now. Plus, I had such fun on the set and want to get more experience so I’m putting myself out to help on more films. Secret ambition: to be “Second Second Assistant Director” in something decent (and to know what that means).

Tags: movie vampire 48hours

Back in the Forest

Unfortunately, May pretty much sucked for me. I spent it grieving. Roadkill. Unable or refusing to recognise any progress. Let’s see what June brings.

After a hell of a good cry, the other day, I had a couple of good days and then, back into misery. One day, not long ago, I felt the desparateness of my need to be loved rise up inside me until it reached the top of my head and started spilling over. I felt like screaming at the phone to ring. Screaming at the world to love me, not leave me where I was, not knowing.

Hello? Anybody fancy starting a relationship with this guy?

I know that the love has to come from me. That the love has to flow into my heart as the sadness flows out. I know I have that love but I am witholding it. Why should I have to do all the loving? Why do I have to do this alone? Where is the someone to take me in their arms and hold me until I know I will be alright? I don’t want to do that for myself. I am angry that I have to. I would rather try to ignore it. Keep going with my life. Tell it to FUCK OFF. If you are going to keep dumping me in the shit, then fuck you. Smash. Smash. Smash. I will smash this fucking forest as my legs melt off and my arms turn to butter.

Even this stupid regressive drama, I have to do by myself, and on the stupid internet. Actually, it’s probably better that I don’t embarrass myself by letting anyone know about it.

Just forgetting about my dear and loving friends, for a moment, that is.

Julia reckons that I create my life the way I want it. That I (my version) created abandonment by women: my mother (and her abandonments before that), Mary-Anne, Jane, Chicky Babe, my former therapist (Jenny Rockel who just died, right when I was thinking I’d give her a call) and Elsie. It is certainly true that I get pretty knocked about by some of these things. Am I indulging in this? Recoiling in self-pity and self-protection? Whimpering, helplessly? Or is it that I have the courage to feel the pain and face the not knowing of being in this darkness? (And the knowledge of my heart and the fire that burns there?)

I know, I know. I _am_ doing progress with this, just by writing like I am. But I don’t want to, you hear? I don’t want to be single and enjoy that, do some more dating. To bring myself fully to parenting, to my work, to having fun, being social, creative, learning, making this house lovely, travelling and being active and healthy. I don’t …

I know a little about the abandoner that I am. I have the role. I also, know about the abandoner who I am not. Yes, I get moments of loyalty-fatigue like the next person but who I am in this world is the one who does not abandon. Not myself, not my children, friends, family, or (with certain limits) my partner. But the me bit, this is a step in my learning about that.

It is, and always was going to be a step in my grieving for Jane. I have felt more anger (A) and despair (D) in this last month than I have for a long time. My first brush with love – actually not the first but the first halfway decent one. First the being in it tipped me into grieving, then the being out of it tipped me right into the pit again. Ach, well. One more small step forward. A few more litres of tears I don’t need to shed any more. A reminder of just how unfinished, or anything like it, this process is.

Flying into the Flame

Yet another metaphor for this experience.

I flew, knowing that I risked burns. And burned I was. I will fly in again as flames seem to flicker all about, albeit in the middle distance, and as I notice my eyes straining towards them.

A friend of mine once spoke of experiencing near immolation in love. Is this just a phenomenon of adolescence, uncompleted despite stage of life? Can immolation be experienced without annihiation? Or is this the existential dilemma?

Inspired by Bruce Sterling’s fantastic “The State of the World” presentation (mp3) from South by Southwest, I have been reading and listening to some peoms by Carl Sandburg. Sterling concludes his speech with a spine-chilling excerpt from “The People, Yes“.

Others of Sandburg’s poems speak more directly to the “love layers” uncovered in my recent probe.

Firstly, layer 2, the missing loved one, in:

At A Window

Give me hunger,
O you gods that sit and give
The world its orders.
Give me hunger, pain and want,
Shut me out with shame and failure
From your doors of gold and fame,
Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger!

But leave me a little love,
A voice to speak to me in the day end,
A hand to touch me in the dark room
Breaking the long loneliness.
In the dusk of day-shapes
Blurring the sunset,
One little wandering, western star
Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow.
Let me go to the window,
Watch there the day-shapes of dusk
And wait and know the coming
Of a little love.

And layer 4, the ultimately unfulfillable, in:

Dream Girl (also available as an mp3)
You will come one day in a waver of love,
Tender as dew, impetuous as rain,
The tan of the sun will be on your skin,
The purr of the breeze in your murmuring speech,
You will pose with a hill-flower grace.

You will come, with your slim, expressive arms,
A poise of the head no sculptor has caught
And nuances spoken with shoulder and neck,
Your face in a pass-and-repass of moods
As many as skies in delicate change
Of cloud and blue and flimmering sun.

You may not come, O girl of a dream,
We may but pass as the world goes by
And take from a look of eyes into eyes,
A film of hope and a memoried day.

From Sandburg’s “The People, Yes“:

In the darkness with a great bundle of grief
the people march.
In the night, and overhead a shovel of stars for keeps, the people
“Where to? what next?”

Incident on the Road of Love

I am bumping along the dirt road of love, dragged like the cans towed from a bridal car. I am launched into a shallow arc through the air. Intoxicated by the speed of the car, I forget how it started and enjoy the flight.

Landing grazes me in several places as I skid to a halt.

I bathe my torn skin gently with cotton wool and saline, but in each place the skin lifts with the cotton wool revealing gaping wounds, seeping with thick pus.

Lying, as the day dims, I notice my friends, denizens of the hedgerows, begin to emerge. They lie gently beside me, hold a hand, lay light coverings or let me be reflected in their eyes.

Pain Spectroscopy

I wish I’d made this up but the idea came from email as spectroscopy, quite cool in itself. Ed tells me that spectroscopy is the analysis of light frequency to determine molecular structure. You go layer by layer, identifying the number of electrons in each. As a metaphor for this, it stands up.

I know from experience that the only way out is in. Now, again almost overwhelmed with pain, I return to this. Yes, it’s analysis but to do it probes the recesses. It’s a journey of sense-making and feeling, somehow groping forward. Basically, it’s pissing me off feeling this much pain and being so disabled from my daily life by it. I just want to give it the flick.

I indulged, today in pathetic recourse to “are you sure?”. She is. As if I hadn’t known that, I had been “waiting by the phone”, badly. Like a ventriloquist’s dummy, I was tipped into a new trough of lamentation. Jeezers, I am thinking, there’s gotta be something more to this than I realise. I mean, she’s a nice chick but we were holding hands, snuggling up a little.

OK, it’s the prism. But first, notice the alternating pattern between the layers.

1: Conscious, real person: No Playmate

I can’t call her Chicky Babe any more. How’s “L”? We’re not talking magazine here but biking or sitting around, dinner, brunch (she doesn’t do breakfast, apparently), picnic, lingeringly shopping for nice clothes, aromatic delicacies or absolute crap, skipping or scuttling about playing body games, fossicking, doing movies, domestically hanging curtains or fridge doors, music, art, architecture and garden-fancying. All that ordinary nice stuff. Some of it not so ordinary for me. Ok what? L being haughty, dismissive and presumptuous with me. Issuing orders in monosyllables. Chatting online to other blokes for the first five minutes after I arrive. Whoah, we are very close to my ‘ok’ boundary here.. but are we? Somehow, I know that it’s just play and when real stuff goes down, she’ll be there, pretty solid. And when it does, she is. Noticing how easy L is with herself and with people. Meeting Simon and being out about letting go being “on show”. Different way of doing it from me. With substance.

Feeling an electric sensation touching her skin.

Layer 1: no real person whom I like and have much easy fun with.

2: Unconscious, imagined person: No Partner

My unconscious, of course notices about three basic things: woman, friendly, around a lot and goes “latch”. A “live-in lover”. Someone to check in with at the end of each day, stretch out with, get up with, share intimate spaces of the house, comment on decor, share utensils with. No run-up.

Why would there be? A person whom i like and who is giving me attention. Who doesn’t like that? Actually, I know this “pattern” quite well, having had a decent selection of good fits, in my time.

Gotta query rejection here. Call me naive (or narcissistic) but I don’t think this is too bad a case of it. I’d know.

Layer 2: no match with the imagined missing person silhouette.

3: Conscious, real person: No Jane

It’s simple, really. L matches missing person mould but missing person mould is plastic, it’s been deformed, shaped by Jane. My whole life has. I can’t put a twisty tie around a cellophane breadcrumbs bag without her being right here with me.

C’mon, it’s been nine months, can I start having my life back? C’mon, it’s only been nine months, man, what do you expect? Amazing, Dan, only nine months and you’re giving it a go again! Do you know how sick i am of this little chat? I am and I’m not. I know you are here with me, Jane Spears. But what do I do with you, here like this but not? Damn, it’s like you get all the benefit from it, and all the power, and you don’t even exist.

L said she didn’t want to be the first one after Jane. Good call, Honey.

Layer 3: just who do you think i am?

4: Unconscious, imagined person, absent

This excerpt from (I think it’s a draft of the) script of the legendary movie Tombstone has it that, in a bedroom of the Hooker Ranch, Wyatt Earp says to Doc Holliday:

What makes a man like Ringo, Doc? What makes him do the things he does?


A man like Ringo’s got a great Empty hole right through the Middle of him and no matter what He does he can’t ever fill it. He Can’t kill enough or steal enough Or inflict enough pain to ever Fill it. And it drives him mad. Sick mad. Cold and dirty.


So what does he want?


What does he want? He wants revenge.


Revenge? For what?

[Doc looks at him, a look of purest sadness in his sunken eyes.]


Being born.

Abandonment, loss, lack. Stone-hugging. It’s not just childhood wounds, it’s the the war, and the war before that. Can’t escape this shit.

Layer 4: live with it.