Rolling horizon line grey green hills patches of yellow light green young birch clustered along landscape in kindergarten like scratchings dark green pines swaying in breeze stark grey rocks/stones littered with rummaging squirrels a figure lost in the depths of solitude.
My friend Malisa from Los Angeles told me she was going to be in an exhibition of Californian artists responding to Joan Didion’s 1970 novel Play it as it lays, a novel she thought I may find interesting and informative to my own art practice. The book is centred around a character called Maria Wyeth, an actress and former model, as she contemplates her life and the events leading up to her mental break down amidst the ruins of the late 1960s in L.A.
I grew up in a conservative and isolated city in Western Australia in the 1980s and ‘90s, but developed an interest in utopian idealism through reading accounts of events and documents of freedom expressed in North America and Europe from the 1960s and ‘70s.
I ran into a second hand copy of the novel that Malisa had recommended just as I was about to jump into my friend’s van and drive from Vancouver to Los Angeles. What a perfect journey to embark on with such a novel.
Somewhere between Oregon and the Californian Redwoods I paused, mesmerised by Maria’s narration:
I TRY TO LIVE IN THE NOW
AND KEEP MY
EYE ON THE HUMMINGBIRD
Gazing into the moving golden landscape I remembered The Source, another book that had been on my mind, and Irealised that Maria’s philosophy was similar to that of Father Yod, who in the 1970s preached to his spiritual family from his monumental vegetarian restaurant The Source on Sunset Boulevard and at The Source family mansion in the Hollywood hills:
LIVE IN THE ETERNAL NOW
How does this sit today, should one be cynical or look upon this statement with P.M.A? (positive mental attitude) When things turn sour or when revelations that were once so concrete shift where do we go and where do we turn? These are some of the thoughts running through my head as I recline in the back of a 1979 Vandura van on a bed that folds down from a coffee table while driving along the 101 interstate.
As the sun slipped beyond the horizon, I realised I had become addicted to the lines of landscape. I looked at the glass pyramid attached to the dashboard and wondered about the shells and the sand it contained- where had they come from? What adventures have they been on? I thought about the possibility that objects can experience what we experience; I thought about the passing mountains- how much do they know and how much have they seen?
I go back in time to a Geoffrey Farmer studio visit:
Life now is a bigger trip than any psychedelic drugs from the 60's- let your own artwork trip you out. Let it speak to you.
Believe in objects - living things seen and heard. Prove that the universe exists within the macramé wall hanging in your studio.
and I AM LIVING THE DREAM RIGHT
NOW AND THEN
My floating thoughts were suddenly jolted back to the present moment as the fumes from the leaking gas tank of the van intensified; I opened a window to seek temporary relief in the warm afternoon breeze.
We had just visited the One Log House, jumped from rocks into a mass of fresh flowing water, our feet burning as we ran back to the van in mutual summer bliss.
LIVE IN THE ETERNAL NOW
Was thinking like this valid, or was it just plain naïve? Should statements like these be embraced, or did they imply that we were slaves to ‘the now’? Were we holding ourselves back? Were those the words ringing through Father Yod’s head as he plummeted from a cliff in a hang gliding accident in Hawaii in 1975? Was he still chanting those words lying on the beach in extreme pain as he left his earthly body?
Am I living the dream right now? I wondered again. I thought so, but I realised that as well as living in the now I was contemplating the past – not my own past, but the pasts of others who had recorded their own experiences of ‘living in the now’.
I finished reading Play it as it Lays just before we arrived in L.A.
HERE AND NOW
Last night I wandered drunkenly along Sunset Boulevard looking for my misplaced camera. The moment was so sweet- the importance of tomorrow’s blog post dissolved as I carried on along the footpath. I suddenly thought of Maria speeding down the Los Angeles freeway on the brink of insanity with no destination in mind. Somehow I was no longer concerned about losing a device that monumentalises past events. I was not even sure where I was going, just as Maria was not sure where she was going.
IT’S THE IMMEDIATE.
A JOURNEY IN THE NOW
BEING 100% HERE
It’s the ultimate headspace. I am riding my bicycle drifting off into a daydream I’m turning from a street in Brunswick, Melbourne to a street in Strathcona, Vancouver and then I am back in LA, always at all times – free. Free of spatial limitations within the daydream.
I had been gone for quite some time, I found out later that my friend thought I had been mugged, murdered, or both. I know The Source restaurant was along here somewhere… I was thinking as I stumbled along. The streets seem so deserted; I imagined them to be so much more alive and filled with energy, I found my friend passed out on the sidewalk.
If it were 1972 would I be would I be preaching the wordsLive in the Eternal Now while Maria watches the Hummingbird?
I became completely lost in my thoughts. What links us today? I wondered. Could these sentiments hold? Were they still valid? I was relying solely on other people’s accounts and documents from this time, but had it been romanticised? Could a sense of nostalgia have gotten in the way of the truth?
Are we overfed on a diet of fear and worry, forgetting how to live simply, or am I just plain ignorant, refusing to accept the truth of society, putting my faith in the universe to guide me home and living in a dream world like Maria?
Joan Didion may deliver an honest and believable insight into the ruins of the late 1960’s in Los Angeles... but here I am, just wondering about the past, wandering in the now.
Over the weekend I went camping. We slept in a field next to Turpin Falls, about an hours drive from Melbourne. We woke up early, the sun was already stinkin’ hot, so after a delicious campfire breakfast and a quick dip in the river we hit the road.
A rough plan was formed to find a half decent coffee, check out the markets in Woodend and stumble upon another sweet spot to swim.
After coffee was located and I’d spent all my money on books, plants, home made relish and handcrafted bowls at the market, I got chatting to a beekeeper selling beeswax candles she made from her own and a few local beehives. She was also the president of the beekeepers guild of Victoria. I started to think how interesting the beekeepers guild meetings would be- a community of beekeepers whose interest was in the ultimate community….. bees.
Marilyne and I agreed to write each other a brief bio for this blog (http://woodbutchers.tumblr.com), we thought it would be a fun challenge. I had been thinking about it all weekend and it wasn’t until I got chatting to the beekeeper that a little light bulb in the top paddock made a ‘click’ a ‘bing’…the noise when something suddenly makes sense.
Marilyne Blais reminds me of a bee on a mission- buzzing around from project to project always on her way to do something awesome. Whether it be hanging with friends at an amazing outdoor spot, having meetings with another collective she is involved in to organize an event or performance, or take part in workshops all involving, creating and constructing community interaction and engagement.
I met her in Vancouver this past Canadian summer, when my slogan for the season was ‘talk’s cheap’ swiftly I realised Marilyne puts these words to shame, it’s easy to just say them- Marilyne lives them! Her urgency to get stuck in and make things happen is inspiring..... TALK’S CHEAP! Make something, do something!