Notes from a Tree/09

December it may be

But I still have some catching up to do.

All summer long, my beloved Jolly accompanied to the gardens, and waited – down on the ground – while I did my stint as a leopard in a tree.

I’d get up when I felt like it, have breakfast, take a shower, get dressed. We’d walk to the Parsonage the long way round, along the river.  The sun shone.  A bag swung from my hand.  Inside was some food for me, some food for Jolly, a plastic bowl to put water in for him, and my leopard onesie.  I thought, “This is the life.”

My beloved Jolly

My beloved Jolly

In Cahoots

On September 2nd I went to the Parsonage Gardens to take down the old sign, which had become a little rain-smudged…

the old sign

the old sign

..and to put up a new one

newsign_lores2

the new sign

(With hindsight, I don’t know why I bothered.  The first one was clearly better, in a smudgy sort of way).

But on approaching the Magnolia Tree I stopped short.

The ground beneath its branches was covered in a soft pink cloud

a soft pink cloud

a soft pink cloud

Puzzled, I glanced up at the Magnolia tree as it stood there, humming a jaunty little tune and looking rather pleased with itself.

But then I cottoned on.

“Ha!” said I.  “Well done, Magnolia, you nearly had me there.  But you didn’t drop this lot.  This stuff comes from the Smoke Tree!”

The Magnolia said nothing; but ceased its humming and looked away – a little crestfallen, I thought.

I did think it was funny, though, how the wind had blown the pink cloud from the Smoke Tree, around the Acer in between and deposited it so convincingly here, beneath my beloved Magnolia.

It seems the wind and the trees are playful, in cahoots, trying to trick me.

Notes from a Tree/08

A different view

A different view

In August, I climbed higher than I had dared before

and earned myself a different view,

including one or two last

shy

magnolia

flowers

hiding

(out of my reach) – whose

siblings lay in petals

scattered on the ground.

IMG_0327dr_lores

…petals scattered on the ground

Mid-month, the wind blew strongly

enough to make the boughs sway – and me with them.

It was a distinctly

unnerving

experience, and I clung on for

dear life (as did my new friends, the remaining magnolias).

IMG_0333fire40_dr_lores

An unnerving experience

I  wondered what to do with the photographs I had started taking of the people who passed below.  Perhaps I would put them in a gallery called ‘Human Traffic’

– but what of the dogs and occasional wildlife I snapped?  Hmm.  

‘Non-Leopard Sightings’, or

‘Human Traffic (and Other Beasties)’

maybe.  

Divided into two categories:

‘Those Who Did’ and ‘Those Who Didn’t’ (notice me, that is).

20131002_095208

…notice me, that is.

Why is She Up There, Mummy? (part two)

So, the excitement and fear of the (will they/won’t they) proposal letter and its reception over and done with, I settled back into wondering what on earth I was actually doing.  “What’s it all about?” I wondered, not for the first time, in my notebook.  Why, when all the other artists had left (aka moved on), was I still here?

This is what I wrote:-

“It’s about

Belonging vs. Being Out of Place

Being Here v. Wanting to be Somewhere Else

Authenticity v. Disguise

Nature v. Civilisation

Childhood v. Adulthood

Freedom of Expression v. Repression

It’s also about lounging about and having fun!

These are all themes in my life.

It’s also about the frustration of discovering there are some things I really don’t like about myself – but try as I might, I can’t seem to change…”

And we all know what they say about leopards…

Smile for the camera, please!

Smile for the camera, please!

To conclude: there’s a certain amount of stuckness going on in my life (not to be confused with Stuckism, which is something entirely different), and so it seems apt that I should be ‘stuck’ up a tree for a year.

That’s why she’s up there, Mummy.

The End of Leopardry?

After the draft proposal in my notebook came this:-

Draft_proposal_2aDraft_proposal_2b

And then, for two weeks, I did nothing.  I didn’t re-type or deliver my letter. Day after day, I trudged up and down the banks of the River Mersey in Didsbury with my dog, see-sawing between “Yes, it’s a good idea” and “No, it’s a terrible idea.”

What if they said no?  What if they said yes?  I couldn’t work out which would be worse.

Finally, on 5th August I typed the finished version.

On 6th August… Well, read it yourself – a page from my notebook:-

20131030_200126My little heart sang.

And then I fled down to my mother’s in Essex for five days.

Notes from a Tree/06

Here’s a drawing I made in my sketchbook during the last days of the exhibition. I’m looking down at the base of the tree, where it forks just above ground level.  It was difficult to convey the perspective.

Looking down at the base of the tree

Looking down at the base of the tree

As the end of the show drew closer, I felt sad at the thought of not being able to climb the magnolia tree any more (I did so, for those two weeks, by special permission).  It had been such a rich and unusual experience.  These are some of the things I gained from my performance:-

It brought me closer to nature.  Literally.  I had to hug the tree and wrap my limbs around it in order not to fall out.  I climbed barefoot, loving the feel of tree bark on the soles of my feet and against the palms of my hands and the tips of my fingers; loving the sensation of climbing, moving all four limbs in harmony, like an animal.

It showed me another perspective: that of an animal, a hunter in repose, watching the movements of others as they passed beneath me, or sat down to rest themselves, not knowing I was there.

It slowed down the pace of my life and my thoughts.  It gave me t-i-m-e to think, have ideas, make notes, draw, write poetree, etc.

It tickled me, it genuinely did.  It made me smile: here I was, putting myself on show in a public place, in such an absurd way – and unless I called out, most people passed by without noticing.  Bizarre!

I had some wonderful conversations with some of the people who did notice me.

A lady called Marguerite in conversation with a Leopard in Didsbury

A lady called Marguerite in conversation with a leopard (in Didsbury)

I enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on my life, on the meaning of my performance, on the purposes of art… and on what I might have for dinner.

It brought me into the present moment, with its sunshine/cloud, birdsong, voices, next door’s lawnmower, aeroplanes overhead, summer breezes and so on.

It gave me a welcome break from phone calls, emails, text messages and facebook.  (I don’t do twitter. Whoever heard of a leopard tweeting?)

It was a bit like staging a personal, peaceful, one-woman protest against a world full of noise, technology, and bad news.

It gave me an excuse to do something socially unacceptable without being branded mentally ill.

Last in this list, but not least: it introduced me to some wonderful artists (my fellow exhibitors) and their work.

No wonder I didn’t want it to end.