don’t turn’em dark apples

The first time I get to use the word estuary – I see them birds; swallows, ducks and my first eagle! soaring across it, these wetlands; the marsh; these estuaries. Dry winter-worn weeds light up like fairytale gold – all of midas’ touch, full of sunlight and alchemy. How can something as bare as rock, as ordinary as moss, turn so beautiful? The train crosses the river, it’s like I’m skimming over the water – I can’t see my feet, or the tracks, only that weightlessness when both sides are brown and green and golden blue…… sometimes I wonder, how can I call myself an artist when nothing can compare to such sublime?

Photographs are so useless in times like this, how can a camera capture the delicate shifts of green, brown and ice? So dirty it looks, on digital. Nothing compares to the hints of jade unfurling on willows as spring creeps under dry wintry underbrush, the celadon green cool spanning across the murky brown, a touch of sunlight transforming to the purest jade. The waves that kiss the harsh rocks and ochre sand, burnt yellow almost white – glows. Even the monoliths of steel bridges, highways snaking solid metal, whole and rusted; rising like ancient mammoths across the landscape……… somehow in their weight, their utilitarian industrial-ness, the very feeling of solemnness echoing the beauty of it all – a detritus; this American landscape.

Most of all, I watch the clouds. I watch them and wonder if they’re my cousins – full of water and air; that maybe if I evaporated myself, I could join them up there….. soft and warm and curled up, basking in the sun. A pouf, a puff, a piffle. A choux pastry in the sky; drifting through cities of blue. Blue that gets deeper and bluer, blue like the purest ultramarine – lakes of it, pools of it endless flows of it; at the sky and back again. When I was a kid my favourite thing to do was lie in bed and stick my feet against the window and I’ll try to make steps until I was basically standing on my head – head in the ground (or pillow), feet in the sky. Lovely to pretend, anyway

I love this, this rarely seen America. I’m not American, but I think sometimes America doesn’t do itself justice – look at these photos, how beautiful it is! I tell everyone to take the train now. Don’t drive, see these places for yourself. See this rare America – wild and beautifully harsh, better than any national geographic photo or “Asian” exotica. Passing through it reminded me of this old cartoon – Night on Galatic Railroad;  I wasn’t old enough to understand the plot, but I would watch it endlessly, crying. I didn’t cry because it was sad, but because it was so beautiful that I wanted to be there, it was so wonderful that it hurt it not be real

And now… going through the landscape, I feel that sensation again; of being in a place so beautiful it hurts, overwhelmingly so. So beautiful it seems surreal, like a miyazaki dream. I fell asleep halfway, dreaming of my edge of the world, the secret places only I knew about, with the Hudson river gliding like a glittering serpentine route….. and woke up to the river again. Endless. Sometimes I feel so happy to be alive, happiness so rich it hurts to breathe for the sheer living of it

And Montreal? Montreal is like a wash of expressionist romantic painting – swathes of fog cut with luminous intervals, the graceful shadows blurring in the distance and every single shade of grey you could want. Watching it, I’m reminded of [ ] – grisalle, verdaccio, stand straight, tuck your feet, paint….. even now I think I can smell it, even through the layers of train glass and memory; the sharp turpentine and buttery oils, the tea (always black with a spot of milk; white man tea he called it) I haven’t painted in so long. Sometimes I think it’s still inside me, the desire that once tore my hands and hung it like a butcher’s beef, bled dry and yet – and yet again, it rises up vibrating and unworthywanted like an idiot who doesn’t know when to stop after being rejected. Love me, it says. Love me and take a brush again hah! I tell it. Tell it to Photoshop.

I love Montreal. I saw it in the worst season – mud and slush and rain and sleet and snow all at once, the streets were covered in slippery ice and spring frost (even fell a couple of times, clumsy self) I love it because it’s not perfect, that it looks like something from Caspar David Fiedrich’s paintings of gothic loveliness and sublime transcendence; that pine trees stand tall and darkly, and every sunset is a cathedral of worship for the most glorious light of all…….

Maybe the happiest thing I took away from this – nothing to do with work or really anything, only I’m happy I found so many things beautiful.


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