Andrew Greig, Writer, Poet, Musician ...

I have 2 mountaineering authors I enjoy more than all others and one of them is Andrew Greig, author of the book titled Summit Fever.

Perhaps this write-up captures what I found so enjoyable about his book:  When poet Andrew Greig was asked by Scottish mountaineer Mal Duff to join his ascent of the Mustagh Tower in the Karakoram Himalayas, he had a poor head for heights and no climbing experience whatsoever. The result is this unique book.

Summit Fever has been loved by climbers and literary critics alike for its refreshing candour, wit, insight and the haunting beauty of its writing. Much more than a book about climbing, it celebrates the risk, joy and adventure of being alive.

But having 'discovered' Andrew today, beyond rereading his book and carrying it with me as I've moved towns and countries, I have truly enjoyed finding his poetry and everything else too.  He's a well-rounded artist it seems.

And I found Mal's Song (embedded below) ... beyond special.  I'm on page 38, rereading my paperback version yet again and Mal is currently introducing Andrew to the mountains ... in preparation for their adventure in the Himalayas.  Like in the song.

Mal Duff was an extraordinary man, a superb mountaineer, a good friend to many, and all kinds of other things that I can't possibly imagine, I'm sure.  He died at Everest's base camp back in 1997. 

Joe Simpson, who also had some epic times in the mountains with Mal, wrote of Mal's favourite quote in the introduction to Andrew's book, Summit Fever.  The quote:

He either fears his fate too much

or his deserts are small,

that dares no put it to the touch

to win or lose it all.

- the Duke of Montrose.

But of course.

And that would be Joe Simpson, that other writer/mountaineer whose books I love. 

'Say Yes to Life' ... Isabel Allende

I was wandering alone for a month, back home in New Zealand, interviewing climbers and mountaineers for a book I wanted to put together.  It was a month off from my first marriage. The synopsis went through two publishing meetings.  They told me they loved it but they didn't feel there was a big enough audience.  They gave me other publishing house names to send it to but my mother was diagnosed and I wandered off to university late.

I still have the manuscript but that was a long time ago.

Anyway ... way back then and I arrived in Wellington, at the home of my truly delightful friend, Michelle Bennie.  I had her absent flatmate's bedroom.  It was a small room in a beautiful old wooden house.  Her flatmate was out of town.  The bedroom was located on flimsy-looking stilts ... located on the side of a steep bush-covered hill there in Brooklyn.  Possums on the roof at night, it offered a beautiful view over Wellington city.

I remember that this was the place where I first 'met' Isabel Allende, via a book on the bookshelf in that bedroom.  I devoured 'Eva Luna' one rainy day, enjoying the strange and exotic taste of her story, curled up on someone else's bed in a city not my own.

I was in town to interview Matt Comesky.  The loveliest high altitude climber I've ever met.  He was  on K2 with Bruce Grant and Alison Hargreaves when they were blown off the mountain.  I so very much wanted to understand the mind of the climber way back then. I still do, and war photographers and journalists have joined the ranks of those who fascinate me.

Anyway ... Wellington, 1998, Isabel Allende was the bonus. 

Lately ...

Lately, so much has happened that I seem to have lost my ability to process it all ... and to write the stories.  I so very much want to write the stories.  From Genova, Lake Como, and Norway.

Italy was intense, followed by a stint at home where I played 'catch-up' ... which was intense.  Before flying out to Norway, to give a photography workshop that was all about more intensity and more beauty.  Day after day after day when the electricity of a life lived intensely hummed inside of me.

Home again to an impressive 'to-do' list that has me dreaming of two weeks of doing absolutely nothing.  But I think the problem is mine, no one else's.  I suspect, even if I were set down on a deserted island, a castaway or two would wash up and we'd talk for days and nights until rescued. 

I'm like that.  Intensely curious, intensely interested, in almost everything.  I'm beginning to understand this thing about me.  I don't rest but it's my fault.

Kim and AP came over from England last week and that was so good.  Then I caught up with Marcia, my lovely Irish colour therapist friend, from Brussels.  We had another kind of day filled with a different intensity ...  one that involved everything from walking and singing to her 8 week old baby, to talking of e-courses and all kinds of other things too.

In-between times I photographed two lovely Belgian families, laughing but intense as we worked with the bright light and 5 beautiful children under 8 years of age.  I rode home on the tram, jeans splattered with mud, exhausted but happy.

Then today ... an unplanned visit to the city, because I was almost out of coffee beans, netted an unexpected bonus.  5 fabulous books! 

A  Mountain in Tibet by Colin Thubron.

Tim Parks, Dreams of Rivers and Seas.  A novel.  I already loved his book, A Season With Verona.

Then, Jon Snow, one of my favourite journalists wrote a book i didn't know about.  Lately I've been finding so many good books by and about war journalists and photographers.   His book, Shooting History, was published in 2004.  Jon had already spent 25 years reporting and is  'one of the most highly regarded newsmen of our time, renowned for his independence of mind and his unerring ability to get to the heart of the matter.'

I particularly love this, 'he presents his uncensored views on the new world order: how the West's constant search for an enemy has helped unhinge the world, and why the media have been less than helpful in drawing attention to key political and global developments'.

And then there was a book I had forgotten I was waiting for.  Daniel Pearl's wife wrote about her husband's life and death in A Mighty Heart.   ' A journalist in her own right, Mariane is, as was her husband, profoundly committed to the idea that a more informed public makes for a better world, and to the idea that risks have to be taken to uncover a story.'

And the final book, before I stepped away from that dangerous 50% off shelf is one by New Zealander, William Brandt.   Titled The Book of the Film of the Story of my Life, I couldn't resist.

It's been a good day here in the flatlands of Belgium.  I'm also working on the very first A New Way of Seeing Newsletter.  And processing the family photography session, and trying to decide which book I should begin reading while knowing that, at this very moment in time, I should step away from the computer and go organise dinner.

Home ...

You know, if the truth were known I have a perfect passion for the island where I was born. Well, in the early morning there I always remember feeling that this little island has dipped back into the dark blue sea during the night only to rise again at gleam of day, all hung with bright spangles and glittering drops . . . I tried to catch that moment . . . I tried to lift that mist from my people and let them be seen and then to hide them again.

Katherine Mansfield, Writer.

I am returning to Genova in July and already my head has begun to fill with what I would like to achieve while there this time.  That city brings me alive in a way that no other place has so far.  Perhaps Istanbul came close but Genova has everything ... in just the right proportions. It is imperfectly perfect for me.

Genova, once known as La Superba, is an ancient Italian city (at least 2,000 years in the making), nestled in the arms of hills that are topped by ancient fortresses.  And at the feet of the city you have Ligurian Sea. 

The first time I saw that sea tears filled my eyes.  It had been a long time since I had been anyplace where the sea looked like home.  I was out at Nervi, photographing a Genovese family, and suddenly I was overcome by this strange sense of being back in a place that was completely familiar.

I have been thinking about things and have this idea that if you ever leave the country you were born in and move someplace else, far away, then eventually the idea of returning home can become as strange or as foreign as living in another country.

And so you move countries and become 'the other', living amongst people who are 'the other' to you.  But when you go home you realise you have become something else there as well. 

And so my place on the edge of lives and cultures is confirmed, probably for life.   That said, there is something else that happens out here.  I love people.  I love when they invite me into their worlds.  In Istanbul there were Turkish families I adored because they took care of me when I lived alone in their city.  That experience of being a guest, of being invited inside, to be a part of this celebration or that, here in Belgium, in Berlin during those months spent living and working there.  Cairo.  Naples.  France. Italy.   It's those insider journeys that make this lifestyle of mine so very very worthwhile. 

Lately I've been reading a series of biographies and fictions about New Zealand author, Katherine Mansfield ... searching for clues I think.  Something about her story speaks to me.

She left NZ in 1908 aged 20.  By 1923, she was dead from TB but not before she had revolutionised the 20th Century English short story.  She was a part of the English literary scene at the time and yet very much the colonial from the Antipodes. 

Her masterpieces—the long stories ‘At the Bay’ and ‘Prelude’—are lovingly detailed recreations of a New Zealand childhood, reports from the fringe—the edge of the world as she felt it to be. She wrote as if she’d stayed. Of course these luminous re-imaginings are lit with the affection and nostalgia of the expatriate. They would not exist without their author’s estrangement from the scenes and places and people she describes. They are set in a New Zealand of the mind, composed at the edge of Mansfield’s memory.

Source: NZ

I'm curious about her because I relate to her on so many levels.  I feel like reading her story might tell me more about mine.  I yearn for home.  Adore it, am passionate about it and yet ... could I go back and live there again?  I really don't know anymore

Ahhh but all of this when really I came to post a photograph I took at the antiques market in Genova, back in May.

A Fabulous Book by Andrew Simonet, Founder and Director at Artists U

Taking power as an artist means going from beggar to partner. Artists who are strong partners thrive. They find resources, connections, and audiences. They don’t wait for opportunities; they create opportunities.  Everyone we deal with is a partner (not a parent). Funders, presenters, museums, record labels, and critics are all partners. When we step up as responsive, responsible partners, we can go anywhere.

Simonet, extracted from his book, Making Your Life as an Artist - a guide to building a balanced, sustainable artistic life.

Every artist should read this. 

Really.  It's that important.

As Val wrote when I posted the link on Facebook, Good resource and point of view with concrete actions to take. They need to give this to students in school. 

Val Oliver, an Originator/Creator/Writer/Director/Producer.

Making art will never be an entirely reasonable, rational pursuit. Excess, immersion, wildness, and obsessiveness can all fuel our work. But that doesn’t have to be the way we deal with all aspects of our lives.

Protect the wildness of your art practice. Keep the radical parts radical by cutting out the chaos. 

Sustainable means your life can work over the long term. A lot of artists’ lives are built for 23-year-old single, frenetic, healthy, childless workaholics. That doesn’t last. Our lives change and our needs change.

Sustaining is radical.

(Starving is not.)

Ralph Hotere, New Zealand Artist

He was very gentle but held strong views and was extremely inquisitive and interested in many things.

Jeanne Macaskill, artist, describing Ralph Hotere

I think, sometimes, we can grow lacking appropriate role models.  We assume we fit the world wrong and that we carry the burden to change.  But it's untrue.  I think it is more that the institutions that define and model 'correct' behaviour often have it all wrong.

Rather than exploring the full range of what it is to be human, we are shaped so as to fit the structure already in place.

I wish someone had told that it was possible to be gentle and hold strong views.  That one didn't cancel out all possibility of the other.  Strong views do not a monster make. 

The word most used in describing Ralph is the word generous.  That is how friends and colleagues remembered him and yet, he was a man of strong political views ... a man who believed 'art and politics are not separate things, because life does not allow them to be.'

He was described as a warrior artist.  His greatest works embraced great causes.  He used elegance, power, and beauty.  He was a builder of bridges between people.  These are just a handful of the things I've read about Ralph Hotere.

Source: Mirata Mita's documentary series at the end of this post

New Zealand poet Cilla McQueen, one of Hotere's 3 wives wrote 3 beautiful fragments on the Listener magazine's memorial page to Ralph after his death in 2013.  She wrote of time spent in Avignon as a family, 'We knew these were precious days, of dappled sunlight, warm earth, lavender, grapes, melons, rosé wine. I wrote because a camera was not enough.'

He was a talented artist, a stunningly generous man who gave away more then half of his art - gifts to friends, a silent man who believed that 'there are very few things I can say about my work that are better than saying nothing', a man who understood 'precious days' ... a man I don't want to forget because he shows that it's okay to be everything, to own that character that makes us so uniquely ourselves.

Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries, Brussels

Last night was one of those extraordinary nights spent with good people while doing marvelous things.

I had wandered over to Brussels in time to meet Lynette after work.  We met up with New Zealand artist, Wendy Leach and together we walked to Irma's house, where New Zealand photographer, Jacque Gilbert, was arriving fresh from her Amsterdam world.

I cannot begin to describe how lovely it was to find myself sitting there with these women, glasses of wine in hand, food on the table ... just talking.  It was one of those magical moments you experience sometimes, one of those ones where you think about pinching yourself to see if it's real.

But that was only the beginning.  We had come together because we were attending a literary event at the bookshop called Passa Porta.  I had never heard of it before last night but their event was impossible to resist.  Lynette had written, telling us all that she had booked tickets to an event with Eleanor Catton.  The writer who convincingly won the Man Booker Prize in 2013 with her book The Luminaries.  Annelies Verbeke, a Flemish writer, was to interview Eleanor.

We arrived at the shop and the room was already quite full.  I'm sure there were more than 100 people there. And then it began and honestly, sometimes I was close to the point of tears.  Before photography, writing was my great big passion.  I still write but somehow it slipped into the background as photography strode to the forefront in my life.

Last night, there I was, listening to Eleanor and Annelies talk while delighting in the way she was willing to kind of crack open her novel ... revealing her motivations, ideas, goals, and more.

I loved her 832 page novel, The Luminaries, for so many reasons.  It was set in New Zealand but more than that, on the west coast of the South Island in a town I've loved since I was a teenager.  My cousins came from Hokitika. It was a small town with a wild savage beauty back then.  The Tasman Sea still comes roaring across from Australia crashing in on the shore there.  And a few miles inland you can see the powerful outline of the Southern Alps rising up, appearing to trap you between the wild coast and the mountains.

I returned to Hokitika in 2012 and it had changed, so much.  So little, and so much.  The road through the alps to the east coast is a highway these days ... a rugged New Zealand highway but still, simpler to cross than it was back in 1866.  The year Eleanor Catton's novel opens ... goldrush days in that wild place.

She read the opening scene to us before Annelies began with her questions.  The audience became completely silent.  The room was still as she read.  Annelies asked some superb questions and Eleanor answered them, fully, completely.  To the point where I will reread the book because I understand how she intended we use the astrological information.  And while she was clear on the fact that it's not important to understanding the story, it does add another layer or ten to the complexity of the story.

There was a question time and an invitation to stay for the book signing.  New Zealand wine was handed out, courtesy of the New Zealand Embassy.

I'm not really a creature who wants my books signed by authors.  BUT I did want to talk with Eleanor, to tell her how much I had enjoyed both the book and the evening.

I started my university degree in 1998 because I needed to earn two papers before I could apply for Bill Manhire's creative writing course ... way back then.  I lost my way, stayed on at university and never did apply for the course.

Listening to Eleanor brought everything back.  Those days on Stewart Island, a writing workshop with Patricia Grace.  The Otago University's summer writing schools.  Those days of writing.  And so I bought a second copy of the book and waited my turn in the queue.  Somehow, despite the intensity of the interview she had just come through, Eleanor made time to really talk with every person who approached her. 

It turned out that we were wearing the same greenstone necklace.  The same hook.  I explained I had needed some of 'home' to bring back to Europe, to wear close to me, and that it came from a place just along the road from Hokitika. 

Today I wrote, over on Facebook,  that I found Eleanor Catton to be intelligent, gracious, patient, humble ... and you know, everything good.  I didn't exaggerate. If you get the chance to hear her speak, I recommend you do it.

Lynette (on the left in the photograph below), the woman who made it all possible because I would have missed this without her, gave me her camera and I took a series of photographs. 

But you see ...?

Christine Mason Miller - The Conscious Booksmith.

I'm teaching this course because I need it.

Christine Mason Miller,  talking of her e-course, The Conscious Booksmith.

I've signed up to do another workshop in the months ahead.  Like the marketing workshop, this one is absolutely vital for me to move forward into a world I know nothing about. 

And so when a woman I have been 'following' online for years, a woman whose work I love, and whose way of putting herself out into the world fills me with respect, offers a workshop on how to make my book real while fitting it into the flow of my own chaotic life ... then obviously I'm going to sign up.

It helps that it is affordable otherwise I might have been left at the window looking in like a kid longing to join but unable to.  But that's something else about Christine.  Her self-confessed mission is about 'Creating spaces, gatherings, businesses, communities, brands and containers that inspire healing, transformation, and stepping more fully into the truth of the world's relentless need for our unique voice in the world.'

In the months ahead, as I step into the flow with my photography workshops, I will also be hard at work on this book I've been dreaming about for years.  And while it has changed from 'all about me and that city I love' to being 'all about that city', it's an idea that has never disappeared.  Only altered and bloomed into something much more than I expected.  And I love what it is set on becoming.

If you are creating any kind of book, take a look at Christine's introduction to her course ...

The Conscious Booksmith: A Mindful Approach to Creating Your Book // with Christine Mason Miller from Animyst on Vimeo.


Anne Lamott, writing from the last Saturday of her 50s.

This is the last Saturday of my fifties. The needle isn't moving to the left or to the right. I don't feel or look 60. I don't feel any age. I have a near-perfect life. However, I grew up on tennis courts and beaches in California during the sixties, where we put baby oil on our skin to deepen the tan, and we got hundreds of sunburns. So maybe that was not ideal. I drank a lot and took a lot of drugs and smoked two packs of Camels (unfiltered) a day until I was 32. I had a baby and then forgot to work out, so things did not get firmer, and higher. So again, not ideal.

My heart is not any age. It is a baby, an elder, a dog, a cat, divine.
My feet, however, frequently hurt.
My skin broke out last week. I filed a new brief with the Fairness Commission, and am waiting to hear back.
My great blessing is the capacity for radical silliness, and self-care.

I'm pretty spaced out.  . I don't love how often I bend in to pull out clean wet clothes from the washer, and stand up, having forgotten that I opened the dryer that's above, and smash my head on the door once again. I don't know what the solution to this is, as I refuse to start wearing a helmet indoors. I don't love that I left my engine running for an hour last week, because I came inside to get something, and then got distracted by the dogs, and didn't remember I'd left the engine on. It was a tiny bit scary when a neighbor came to the front door to mention this, and I had to feign nonchalance, and act like it was exactly what I had meant to do all along

Anne Lamott, an extract from her Facebook post.


... But when we give ourselves permission, we move past this. The world once again reveals itself to us. We become open and aware, patient and ready to receive it....We give ourselves permission because we are the only ones who can do so.

Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, Dani Shapiro.

I love catching up with the wise words of Terri Windling via her blog, Myth & Moor.  She's a soul-soother somehow.

Meanwhile, I completely agree with the concept of time.   Something beautiful always emerges out of taking the time to play ... some of the best art, or the beginning of a series idea.

Needless to say, I'm missing Genova.  Here's an imperfect glimpse, taken between the portrait shoots I was doing for my book.

Jeanette Winterson, Art.

What art does is to coax us away from the mechanical and towards the miraculous. The so-called uselessness of art is a clue to its transforming power. Art is not part of the machine. Art asks us to think differently, see differently, hear differently, and ultimately to act differently, which is why art has moral force.

Ruskin was right, though for the wrong reasons, when he talked about art as a moral force. Art is not about good behaviour, when did you last see a miracle behave well? Art makes us better people because it asks for our full humanity, and humanity is, or should be, the polar opposite of the merely mechanical.

We are not part of the machine either, but we have forgotten that. Art is memory — which is quite different [from] history. Art asks that we remember who we are, and usually that asking has to come as provocation — which is why art breaks the rules and the taboos, and at the same time is a moral force.

Jeanette Winterson.

Alison Lurie, on great subversive works of childrens literature.

'The great subversive works of children's literature suggest that there are other views of human life besides those of shopping malls and the corporation. They mock current assumptions and express the imaginative, unconventional, noncommercial view of the world in its simplest and purest form. They appeal to the imaginative, questioning, rebellious child within all of us, renew our instinctive energy, and act as a force for change. This is why such literature is worthy of our attention and will endure long after more conventional tales have been forgotten.' -

Alison Lurie, from Don't Tell the Grown-ups, 1990.

Found over on Terri Windling's blog.

Exile, Charles Mudede

The natural place for the writer is exile. It can be spiritual or physical exile, but they always have to be outside of their society, because writers are outsiders. The writer is out of place when they're in their place. They need distance. They need to get away to process what it means to be who they are. Think of Jonathan Raban, Lesley Hazleton, W. G. Sebald, James Joyce, Richard Wright, and on and on—the true home of the writer is always another country.

Charles Mudede, from James Baldwin in Istanbul.

Pa Boys, a New Zealand Movie by Himiona Grace

There's a new New Zealand movie due out this February and I want to see it.  I found the song below and loved it. The movie is The Pa Boys.

I wandered off and discovered this interview with the man behind it all, Himiona Grace - ‎director, writer, photographer and musician too. 

I desperately want to see it but I guess I'm waiting until it comes out on DVD. 

Listening to Himiona's story unfold brought back memories of a weekend spent at a writing workshop on Stewart Island with Himiona's mother, one of New Zealand's best writers, Patricia Grace.  And then he's married to New Zealand writer Briar Grace-Smith.  Someone I missed the arrival of by virtue of losing track of New Zealand's arts scene.  He loved the anonimity of this ... he was either Patricia Grace's son or Briar Grace-Smith's husband.  Meanwhile, he's quietly got on and created something marvelous.  Or so it seems.


The desire to go home, that is, a desire to be whole, to know where you are, to be the point of intersection of all the lines drawn through all the stars, to be the constellation-maker and the center of the world, that center called love. To awaken from sleep, to rest from awakening, to tame the animal, to let the soul go wild, to shelter in darkness and blaze with light, to cease to speak and be perfectly understood.

Rebecca Solnit

An Ideal Life ...

Lately I've been asked, more than once, what would my ideal life look like ...

I was asked to describe it today. I was quite lost.  How many people know how to answer that question?  'If it could really happen, how would your ideal life look?'  And so I stumbled and bumbled around, wanting to be nice, to be gentle ... but no, there was no nice gentleness allowed.

What would my ideal life look like?!

And it's interesting, to me, because I've quietly been working through Danielle LaPorte's book, The Fire Starter Sessions ... in lieu of having colleagues and friends wandering in and out of conversations with me.  I live an oddly isolated life here in Antwerp.  Maybe I even create some of the isolation myself, needing so much space to write and make photographs.  To think.  To read enough books.  And to maintain the family and home we have here.

Danielle almost beats me over the head with her repetitive, direct questions regarding my professional life.  Initially she set off a protective response in me ... protective, resistant perhaps. 

How much money would you like to be making?  Earned a tentative I would love to simply make some money ... became I would love to be financially independent

Her questions focus you down on your business, your self, and your needs.  The last question on her recent worksheet, as follows, was another invitation to dream. 

So ... what would you like to do with your life and career?  (Money is no object.  Dream.)

This morning, a similar question, different requirement.  Tell me how your ideal home life would look.  Dream.  And we're talking 'ideal', if it could be as you wish it to be.

I think I'm getting it.  We need to go in the direction of our dreams.  In fact, Henry David Thoreau tells us to Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

And as we step out, we increase the quality and satisfaction in our lives and so influence the lives of those people around us too.  We're here to live our lives and become the best we can be during that time.  To do the 'right thing', to be eaten up by guilt for not doing so, to conform to the outline of today's 'ideal citizen' ... often these things don't respect who we are.  It seems a bit like a wing-clipping to me.

So here I am, writing a book, spinning a web of planned future actions that will spark financial independence. I'm having some off-the-wall ideas that just may work.  All this simply because people are inviting/demanding that I dream my ideal worlds, both privately and in business, into reality.

I have no idea how it will go but let's see it.

Woman Enough ...

Writers are often asked, How do you write? With a wordprocessor? an electric typewriter? a quill? longhand? But the essential question is, 'Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write?' Into that space, which is like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas -- inspiration.

If a writer cannot find this space, then poems and stories may be stillborn.

Doris Lessing.

This ... this is so true for me.  I recently deleted my facebook account and experienced a most astounding silence.  It took time to adjust to a life without interesting voices crowding in but I did.  And I loved it.  I wrote.  Eventually though, I realised how little people-contact there is in my everyday world and so I went back to facebook.

The alarm goes every morning at 6.45am here.  I have breakfast ready by 7.30am, when I'm home, and I'm usually here at my desk by 8.30am.  And then I read my way into the place that I work from.

It's a mixture of going through email, a scan of my facebook wall for news of the world, catching up on my blog feed and picking through a selection of new reading there.

There's no physical journey, beyond climbing the stairs to the first floor but there is some kind of journey into that place where I work.

So much can go wrong ...

I think it's why painters have studios, photographers too.  Ateliers.  Mine would be locked some days, with no visible signs of life showing.  I have this 4 hour window of time where I can concentrate intensely.  It's the time when the best of my creativity comes out to play.  I know this but I can't always hold onto it.

I'm studying the 'how' of it because I have had 5 disasterous days in a row, with life crashing into me, again and again.  I think, in the process of opening your self to dig deep and create something that didn't exist before, or to write of something you love so that the passion leaps off the page and convinces people ... you need to go to a place where you can take off your skin and just kind of feel your way with your nerve-endings, with your senses perhaps.

An argument can lay waste to that 'place', to that state of being.  Or realising that this person or that really needs you, or that the house is a mess.  That particular 4 hours out is all that I require but it's so difficult to actually take that much time in the world where I live.

Exit Stage right, and Genova.

I have a favourite poem by a writer I've loved for years. I've posted it before so forgive me if you have already ready it.  Otherwise, maybe this captures something of the struggle ...

Woman Enough

Because my grandmother's hours
were apple cakes baking,
& dust motes gathering,
& linens yellowing
& seams and hems
inevitably unraveling
I almost never keep house
though really I like houses
& wish I had a clean one.

Because my mother's minutes
were sucked into the roar
of the vacuum cleaner,
because she waltzed with the washer-dryer
& tore her hair waiting for repairmen
I send out my laundry,
& live in a dusty house,
though really I like clean houses
as well as anyone.

I am woman enough
to love the kneading of bread
as much as the feel
of typewriter keys
under my fingers
springy, springy.
& the smell of clean laundry
& simmering soup
are almost as dear to me
as the smell of paper and ink.

I wish there were not a choice;
I wish I could be two women.
I wish the days could be longer.
But they are short.
So I write while
the dust piles up.

I sit at my typewriter
remembering my grandmother
& all my mothers,
& the minutes they lost
loving houses better than themselves
& the man I love cleans up the kitchen
grumbling only a little
because he knows
that after all these centuries
it is easier for him
than for me.

Erica Jong.

I had to shower, dress, go find a birthday present for a party this afternoon.  I had to get lunch from the supermarket.  After it all, I came back upstairs just after midday and experimented with layers and frames for my photographs ... trying to 'play' my way back into writing. 

Let's see how the rest of it goes.  The shot ... a city street in Genova.