Sunday, February 21, 2010

Learning curves

I've been tottering along on one - a learning curve, that is - which explains why I've been a bit off the wires lately. What can I say about this latest little adventure? For one, it's not been plain sailing. It's been stormy. There were unseen rocks and reefs. I nearly ran aground. Several times. My boat threatened to capsize, but didn't. We took on a fair bit of water, though; thankfully, I tend not to mind getting wet and discovered I had buckets and stamina enough to stay up all night (or two, as was required) and scoop, scoop, scooooop!

I've been immersed in my film-making project lately; it's titled Hidden Depths - Poetry for Science. The cast includes a science diver, a pteropod (I'll find my pics of this exquisite small wonder and post them here soon), an ancient giant of the uni-cellular world, foraminiferan Notodendrodes antarctikos - and the flotilla of bamboo boats that I posted a week ago. I'd initially visualized this film as a collaborative endeavour but after a series of twists, turns and odd disjunctions, I realized it was something I really had to give shape and voice to on my own. This was nobody's fault. It was simply 'one of those things.'

Apparently there are times when - for reasons both obvious and subtle - it's just not possible to articulate the images and atmospheres that occupy the space of one's head into language and shapes that others can take away and work with. Even though this is stating the obvious, it almost always takes me by surprise. I'm by nature The Eternal Optimist, and accede to feeling momentarily bruised and bewildered at the realization that ideas and dreams I'm excited by are not necessarily all that captivating to others! We're all differently wired - and 'tis good so. For all the upheaval of this past week, it's been reassuring to realize - again - that most, if not all, of the time, these sorts of experiences are thoroughly worthwhile in terms of The Overhaul (yes) Picture.

I've been wrestling with language recently. Does this happen to you? Speech has not been coming easily; as though my mouth and tongue are having to deal with a foreign alphabet. Then again, life does at times take on a wordless (or is it word-free?) shape.

Sometimes, I wonder whether in fact it's primarily in and about the silent conversations.

Anyway, the exciting news is that my first film 'proper' is wrapped up (all 13 mins, 08.22 secs of it!) and on its way to Oslo where it will enter the stream of other films being considered for Norway's International Polar Year's PolarCINEMA screening at the end of June; this is an adjunct event to the 2010 Polar Science Conference I submitted a paper to some weeks back (haven't heard anything re; the outcome of that yet; it can't be long now till we're all notified.).

Cadence, The Intertidal Zone & I went for a pounding walk along St.Clair and St.Kilda beaches on Friday evening. The light was dramatic, portentous almost - in an illuminating way. When we started out, I was feeling stressed and gruntled by the unforeseen challenges of what seemed (just days ago) to be an ailing project - standing on a knife-edge between letting the whole thing go and stubbornly trying to find a constructive way forward.

We were talking about learning curves. The beach must have overheard our conversation; it offered up some stunners -

Kelp drawings - in the first, a boundary, threshold space, line of music; in the second, a vessel, horseshoe, effervescing hull?

Every time I look at this small sand stage, another dancer emerges. What - or who - might come forward to meet you...?

There's no telling the scale of this form from a photograph. Might it be a child's dropped lollipop? A sculptor's mallet? A burnt-out torch, tympanist's drumstick or broken chunk of quay?

Come to think of it, the film's a bit like this --- it, too, plays with concepts of scale and is more about questions than answers. A meditation on wonder. My wish is that it will s l o w us down (for at least 13 mins 08.22 secs!), encourage a fresh sense of connection with the natural world, each other and our small-large selves.


  1. Lovely, Claire.
    I love the way you never quit.
    Not dancers to me, but the world being born,
    before continents and countries.
    The beach has a long memory . . .

  2. Wrapped up--congratulations!

    I'm drawn to the subtle colors of your beach photos and those forms, serenely beautiful and spare.

  3. Ah..."to see the universe in a grain of sand"....

  4. Clarab, so good to hear that you have navigated these waters, and that the film is now off on its own journey to Norway. May she sail well. px

  5. Thanks for all you draw to our eyes, Claire, always a step or three beyond the ordinary vision.

  6. Hello Aq. Aye - a vein of dogged persistence runs through me, this is true! (Or is it stubbornness? There's bound to be some subtle difference between the two?)

    I like what you see in the sand image... when I was looking at it on the beach, the first thought that came to me was 'sand maps'. There's a resonance there.

    "The beach has a long memory" could be a line (the first or last, perhaps?) in a poem. Lovely!

    Good to see you here - any idea what might have happened to Timoth?

    L, C

  7. Thanks Mim - it's been a marathon, but I feel light-hearted, buoyant and thankful today. I also feel like going for a swim.

    Tell me, is the water in South Beach warm? Over here, it takes determination and a certain stoicism to enter the ocean without a wetsuit. (Which seems incongruous to me - swimming in the sea with all that rubber between one's skin and the salt water, when contact between the two is the whole point?!)

    You'll be having fun with your son and grandson this week. Enjoy! L, C x

  8. T. Clear - yes! I love that line - it's a good one to return to often as it keeps us on our toes and alert to the details. For all its agonies and incongruities, there can be no arguing that we live in a wondrous world.

    How are you finding being back from Maui? Your time there sounded heavenly and replenishing. L, Cx

  9. Thanks, PamLam - when I saw the word 'Norway' as you'd written it here, I found myself suddenly adrift in Northern waters, bobbing along amongst Vikings' boats. What a strange and wonderful picture! Norway is another watery place, of course, well acquainted with boats. Somehow this fact struck home after your comment this morning. xx

  10. Pen dear - a non you are not. Not even when the word is inadvertently pinned to your lapel! Your shine always come through. xx

  11. I love this concept. I was a geology major at Boston university but became a writer and artist. I want to get to Antarctica so your blog is a really inspiring source. Poetry and science are thoroughly fused for me...

  12. Nothing quite like a totter along the St Kilda to St Clair stretch to restore language. Falling into the depths for a while, then resurfacing and finding dancers on the beach is, as they say, a wrap. Well done.

  13. Wonderful that the production is now en route to hopefully being accepted Cla - we're rooting for you over here is Joburg. Btw - I saw a back scratching loafa (sic) in your lollipop image.... we have one just like it! Catch up soon. Johnno

  14. Hi Sally - great to meet you (I visited your blog yesterday, signed up as a follower). I wonder how you came upon Icelines, but then again, I also know that this is a question that needs neither asking nor explanation... The world is mysterious, isn't it - pathways just do open up.

    Antarctica is a rare and special place. I can understand your yen to go there. I have a slightly conflictual relationship with the continent. For me, it was love-at-first-sight, really - an immediate, abiding 'into the bloodstream' relationship that marked me and that I'm not able to turn my back on. I've been there twice (for a total of seventeen weeks) and get homesick for the place - the smells, textures, tastes, timbres... the experience is not unlike missing a familiar, much-loved body.

    On the other hand, I believe she needs to have her privacy and independence returned to her. As one of the world's last remaining 'Sacred Groves', I wonder whether it behoves us to let her be. But, aaah, this is never going to be straightforward. She is so beautiful. And so fierce. So full of intrigue and allure. What to do? What to do? Perhaps our challenge is to go to her with an attitude of 'attentiveness and service' (akin to custodianship, but different?) showing respect and acceptance of her secrets. My concern is - are we too human to resist pillaging her?

    It can be supremely difficult to love without having to touch or claim ownership of the beloved. As an astrologer (and a Libran?!), I am confident we speak the same language...

    We need to visit Antarctica to understand her, I agree. The challenge is to find ways to do so that are first about loving her - which I think means that we stand primarily (and ultimately) for her & her well-being, rather than for our own? In the way of 'right relationship', the latter will surely follow the former?

    I do hope my musings don't come across as dampening or preachy (please, no) - I'm far from resolved about all this and would find it nigh impossible to resist going back (should the opportunity ever arise again).

    The National Science Foundation offers grants to artists and writers who have a call to go... perhaps you could consider contacting them?

    PS. I began this blog when I went down to the ice in October 2008. For more immediate info and journalling, all the blog entries from that time are archived on this site.

    Take care - and do visit again... Claire

  15. PS. Sally... I agree with you. Science = poetry!

    Gone are the days of academic segregation. Different disciplines want to be seen to be together.

    Hand in hand they go... Hand in hand we go.


  16. lmrb - you make me smile! Thank you.




    ; )

  17. Johnno - Ah, woohoo. Lovely to find this flicker from you in Johannesburg. It's been ages... I miss the sound of your voice. And your chiddles, too.

    If your loofah looks like this, might I suggest it's time to treat yourself to a new one?!!

    Talk soon - yes, yes, and YES.

    Lots, C xx

  18. Sally... another PS!

    It's just occurred to me that my writing 'As an astrologer (and a Libran?!)... ' comes across as rather ambiguous! Let me clarify... although I am not an astrologer, I am engaged with astrology (learning, learning...) - oh, and I'm a Leo with Pisces rising (in my birth place) and Cancer rising in my chosen abode.

    ; )