Candy Chang’s Bucket List Wall

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Candy Chang’s Bucket List Wall

Do you believe in bucket lists? Not in the way that you would believe in Santa, or ghosts, or the now classic Book of Mormon tune; I mean, do you- would you do a bucket list?
I think that bucket lists are the optimistic version of ‘what I have not achieved before death‘. It is the glass that is half full, but the person holding it is realising that the room is getting hotter and hotter, and soon enough he is sitting in a sauna with the water dissipating into vapour.
I think I am daunted by the things I would like to achieve before I, you know, passed away. I am not really ok with the notion of death, even though a few years ago I proclaimed that I am totally comfortable with it. I remember during a philosophical discussion that could only take place within the confines of a student residence I said that I thought that death is absolutely normal, the end of the cycle, a part of life, and other Lion King wisdom. Then, my grandmother died, and the concept of her not existing anymore baffled me. I could not wrap my head around it, simply because it was void: I was required to accept the absence of something that was there one moment, and gone the next. I think I was (and still am) perplexed, not so much about the physical side, but mostly the ‘soul‘ side of it. Yes, the body is the vessel, but how, how on earth does this person’s essence dies? It is enormous, and beautiful, and ugly, and true, and fake, and powerful beyond words and emotions, so how can it just stop existing?
I had to come to terms with more losses in the past few years, and I am none the wiser. So as I was on the bus, listening to Being Boiled on repeat, my eye caught a big blackboard by the side of the street. I had walked by that spot so many times, and yet this was the first time I actually noticed it. I got off at the next stop, walked back, and looked closer.
The heading was ‘Before I Die’, and under it lines waiting to be filled. On the side there was a deposit of chalk. I started reading the entries, and there were wishes of wealth, travel and love, moments of humour and droplets of pain. I thought for a moment what I would write; my mind was blank. The only thing that came to mind was an answer that was as cliche as it was true: to live.
I stood and looked at it; there is something intensely powerful about it. The fact that you have to first erase someone else’s entry in order to write your own seemed to have an almost poetic quality, mirroring how sometimes in life, your wishes don’t come true because someone else’s did and how the cheers of your success might be a blanket over the sorrow of someone else’s failure.
I later googled the piece and I found out that it was by Candy Chang, and there are walls like this one around the world. A global bucket list, a chalk board mirror of the human nature, mortality, hope and the invisible threads that connect them. A chalk outline of a life that waits to be lived.

Love,

G

Candy chang London before I die artist wall London Bridge bucket list

Tea and Reflections: Folding the Day

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I ordered a hibiscus tea and found a place to sit. It is a small table by the window, with a spotlight spewing white light on it. I can see my reflection on the window surface, mingling with the world outside, my eyes shaded, the light catching my forehead and cheekbones, creating a strange collage of face and street. I take a sip, and it tastes like paint mixed with glue. I stretch, and try to push my shoulders back.
I seem to find myself in cafés a lot lately, and I mean his literally: I sit down, unwind slowly, and at the process, get myself back to me; find myself or at least the part of it I lost in the day, the part I did not hear, or neglect, or simply ignore even if that meant not pay attention to my own needs. I remember seeing a Twinings where this animated woman goes through land and see just to find a mirror image of herself; the two join into one, and through a few sips of Twinings, she is back to herself.
Now, I don’t know if it is the tea that has this effect, or the fact that I am sitting down and flat out refusing to think of anything else but this moment that has this effect for me. But when I find it, I get this tingling sensation, a very similar sensation to the one you get when you watch a person do something with great attention and focus; when they are folding laundry with a slow, choreographed way, taking great care of it. I feel this sensation spreading over my shoulders to my limbs, flowing down towards the ground like a discarded layer. In the laundry analogy, it is almost as if I am folding my day, taking great care of it; taking great care of myself.
The reflection is clearing out, and the street is not as prominent anymore. I raise my head towards the spotlight, and I can see the parts that were shadowed before. I look outside; I look ahead.

Love,

G

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The Fog

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The Fog

I took a step in the white thick fog. Life slowed down by the droplets of water that levitate mid air, unsure of their place, defying gravity, obeying the moment. London is enveloped by a stratus cloud that makes everything look breathtakingly ethereal and chillingly scary at the same time.
I am here, in the fog, and I go back to the times of uncertainty; the times where even though you can make out the shapes, you do not know what is around you, what waits ahead, what you left behind.
…and then you walk. One foot in front of the other. Slowly, steadily, feeling weak, not realising how brave you really are. You look back and that looks faraway, hidden in the fog. Will it clear up if you stand still, or should you keep moving? You decide to take another few steps, and with each step the fog is clearing up. You find your path, and you walk on it, and if this path changes halfway and does not lead to your destination anymore, you find your path again. There must be a destination, a purpose for your journey. So you walk. And the fog lifts. And you look back and you ask yourself ‘how did I cover so much ground?’.

There is speed in bravery. There is power in hope. And so, I walk.

Love,

G

Part of the Painting

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Part of the Painting

I am sitting in a Starbucks, my elbows set on the long table I share with 8 other people. On my left, a woman is sitting with her hands crossed, staring at an invisible point in front on her. The couple next to her are arguing in Russian. On my right, a woman still wearing her fur coat, holding her bag on her lap, lost in her iPhone is stealing glances at the woman in a red dress who is talking in Spanish to someone on Skype- he wears glasses and smiles a lot; she doesn’t.
Across me, a girl is reading a book borrowed from a university library, and she is making notes inside, something that makes me flinch. Next to her, two women are correcting papers. I think they are physics teachers, as the white sheets are stained with drawings of arrows pointing up and down next to shapes and figures that resemble the physical world. They laugh about the mistakes of their students, and talk in between answers about other teachers. They are considering an answer: John would have given it a 4, but John is a softie; better give it a 3.
I take a sip of my vanilla rooibos tea, and I stretch. I allow myself to sink in this moment, next to these people, the soft jazz mingling with their chatter and their silence and their own moments. For a second, I am part of a painting on the wall of a cafe. I blend in; and so, I do.

Love,

G

part of the picture

Wonders

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Wonders

I was walking down a brick path. The rain was falling down hard, and it could have made anyone question whether going out for a lunch break is the best idea under such torrential weather conditions; but I didn’t question it. My peacoat was zipped and my scarf was wrapped tight around my neck. My right hand was in my pocket, my left was holding my olive-coloured umbrella. I had my earphones on, but I was not listening to music. I was just walking down the brick path listening to the drum of the rain on my umbrella.
I took my iPhone out and put Wonder by Josh Record on. I inhaled so deeply it felt like it was never going to end, like I was claiming all the oxygen I had not breathed in the past few weeks. I closed my eyes for a second and did not open them again until I felt my shoulders relax. I looked ahead, and the brick path continued. I felt content. I felt like I was in that moment, every part of me, every thought, cell, fear and hope was in that moment and it was that moment that made it so magnificent.
I smiled, made a mental note to write this down when I have the chance, and to share my magnificent moment with you, and now as I write and relive it, I feel the same tingling feeling of peace crawling over me.
And so, I keep walking.

Love,

G

mindfulness london walk moments (3) mindfulness london walk moments (1) mindfulness london walk moments (2)

 

Imaginary Windows

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Imaginary Windows

If there is not a window create one; if you can not create it, imagine it. Look around and see the magic in what is in front of you. Take the ‘everyday goggles‘ off, and stand still for a moment; give time for your eyes to adjust. Then look around you, look and see what is around you, take in its beauty. Allow yourself to be surprised.
I was walking down the street when I stopped on my tracks. The sunlight was creating windows on a windowless wall. The reflection of the building opposite it created small squares of make-belief windows on the brick surface. I looked at it, and a smile formed on my lips.
If there is not a window create one; if you can not create it, imagine it.
What do you see outside? What do you see inside?

Love,

Gthe invisible imaginary windows

59 Seconds Mum: Home Truths

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59 Seconds Mum: Home Truths

I sign deeply, and stare out of the window. The smell of the gingersnap peach tea teases my nostrils, and the sound of my 80s playlist makes my shoulders dance with small, imperceptible rhythmic moves.
I just talked to my mum on the phone; our calls are always short and sweet, mostly keeping them under 1 minute. She asks me how I am, and I say fine. I ask her how she is, and she says fine. She asks me how my brother is, and I say fine. She then reiterates that she just called me to say that she misses and loves me, and I say that I miss and love her too. She sends kisses for my partner, I say I will deliver them, and then we hang up. Time: 59 seconds.
I’ve had a strange relationship with my mum over the years. We used to be really close up to my 18th birthday, when she moved out of the house to stay with her partner. She took the furniture from our apartment on the eve of my birthday, so I spent my surprise party sitting on the floor, eating cake out of napkins.
She then returned years later, when the relationship did not work out. The furniture she took came back, and the furniture I replaced them with were now sitting next to the dumpster outside of the house. I left, went to stay with my dad, and held a grudge for ages.
The first time I told her I loved her after that was the day my grandmother died. Suddenly, all the anger of the years that passed between her leaving, returning, me leaving and coming to London, all this anger and rage dissipated. I did not have to say that I forgave her. She lost her mum and I rediscovered mine.
As I was sitting under the Mothers (Work No. 1092) sculpture in Martin Creed’s What is the point exhibition, its towering presence revolving and taking over the space, I thought of the exhibition at The Photographer’s Gallery, Home Truths: Photography, Motherhood and Identity.
The whole point of the exhibition was to bring some home truths, facts that are difficult to acknowledge, to the forefront. It viewed the nature of motherhood through a lens, and examined the nature of motherhood, gender, domesticity, the motherly figure, the maternal nature, the need for an offspring, the urge to reproduce, and the discourse that comes with motherhood.
There were some truly thought-provoking pieces in. Gazelle by Katie Murray sees her using an exercise machine to lose the baby weight still clinging on her maternal body. Slowly, her children demand her attention, and one by one they climb on her, while she is on the machine. She carries them all, and keeps moving, as a mother does. Hannah Putz‘s portraits have a familiar quality to it, clashing with the foreign dream/nightmare-like pictures of Ana Casa Broda. With a personal account on her longing to have children and the feelings that resulted from their birth, she explores her own childhood and the troubled relationship with her mother through her own personal, inter generational work in Kinderwunsch.
Janine Antoni then follows the footsteps of other feminist artists like Hannah Wilke, Ana Mendieta and Carolee Schneeman and uses her body in Inhabit by suspending herself for hours in a structure that resembled a doll’s house, whilst a spider spun a web between her legs. It was quite interesting, because her position did not tell us if she was suspended, entrapped, or just existing in the house. She just was. Leigh Leidare‘s collection of found pictures, random ephemera and portions of her mother’s life in Pretend You’Re Actually Alive was quite interesting (and closer to the art that I am more familiar with), but it was Elina Brotherus and her Annunciation Series that I found truly, heartbreakingly, achingly moving. She recorded her five year effort to become a mother through IVF treatment, and the full range of emotions, pain, chemicals, injections, waiting, charts and continual disappointment that ensued.
I remember coming out of the exhibition and feeling like calling my mum. I did, but it was a missed call.
I think that the moment we truly grow up is the moment we realise, truly realise, that our parents are human beings. They make mistakes, they fuck up, they try to find happiness and they sometimes make bad decisions. They are not always going to protect you, because they can not. This sense of security that wraps you as a warm blanket is now taken away, and is replaced with an anger. When the anger dissipates, the parent becomes a friend, and you become an adult, even though you still long for that feeling of protection and comfort that only they could give you, even in the 59 seconds of a phone call.
And with a second left before the full minute passes, I think of her, and the cereal for dinner, and the times I would sleep in her bed when I was sick, and the fits of laughter we used to have when we tried to cook something together, and my eyes water and I miss this second the moment it passes by.

Love,

G