Friday, January 26, 2007

Vignette a'la Abstract

My friend Marcos posted these wonderful pieces and the black-and-white abstract apparently has a story to it. I looked at it again today, and this little short vignette floated to mind.

So Marcos? This is for your abstract piece, inspired by the lovely lines!

Once Upon a Springtime

It wasn't that he liked being the Grim Reaper. Times changed, even fashions changed and if his current attire looked like he'd stepped out of a gritty, film noir underworld, it wasn't really his fault. Even Death had taste, and trenchcoats suited his style. Black fedoras, while cliche'd, at least hid his hollow features and as for his small ebony-handled gun - well, scythes were so outdated. One had to keep up with the times after all, even if one didn't like them.

And springtime, despite Death's very considerable poker-faced abilities, was the worst. It made him morose. All this talk of buds, birds and bounty got on his nerves and reminded him that he was possibly the only one who had never enjoyed any of the benefits the season was supposed to bring. Cats have kittens, dogs have puppies, bats have bittens, so carolled poet Ogden Nash, but Death didn't have any of these, and on this particular balmy day he felt suddenly very lonely.

Loneliness begets action. So Death went for a walk in the park, and the first thing he noticed was how very blue the sky seemed to be. Some child had let a red balloon drift into the air, and it hovered, like a bright crimson eye, just over the pale leafy tops of some very tall trees. There was a scent of flowers and freshness in the air, stimulating like a nerve tonic and chasing away the cobwebs in winter-fogged brains. Why, Death said to himself, I never noticed how nice it smells out here, like earth and green, growing things.

A few children ran by, laughing, candy floss in hand. A robin, engrossed in its acquisition of a worm, paid no attention to the trench-coated presence passing by. It was an odd, disturbing feeling, and Death noted it with a measure of surprise. It was a novelty, to be ignored thus. He wasn't entirely sure how he felt about it.

Even before he saw her, he heard her. She was singing a little tra-lala-lira-lay, sitting on the back of a large winged stone leopard by the fountain - a bright splash of colour in her white flamenco dress with red stripes. Oh, she said with a bright smile when she saw Death, could you please help me? - this poor leopard, his wings are frozen into stone. He would lift off like a feather if only he could break them loose.

The girl smelled of mornings and new hopes, her glossy hair the sheen of purple-black grapes ripe in the sun. In the distant recesses of his mind, a faint memory uncoiled and formed itself into nebulous rememberance. When I was still young, he said to himself, surprised. Why, I still remember after all these years.

He touched the leopard's sun-warmed wings. On the grey stone, a vein of cracks bloomed, widening until suddenly, like an eggshell cracking open, pinions blue as the sky spread and broke free. The girl turned to Death. Thank you, she said quietly. He's been waiting for years to be able to fly again.

Death looked at the girl for a very long time. I don't know how to fly, he said gravely. Will you teach me? The girl looked back at him solemnly and he noticed how her eyes seemed to contain every shade of sunset and sunrise, every missing second and every lost dream he'd ever come across in his travels. Of course I will, she said, it's easy, and she took Death's cold, gloved hand.

A little gust of wind blew away the clouds. The red balloon watched with its bright eye as a stone leopard soared towards the welcoming sun, wings fading into the sky, carrying on its back Death and the Maiden hand-in-hand that Spring morning, once upon a long long time ago.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Happy Birthday of the Dissonances

It's past midnight, I've just gotten back from the most wonderful performance by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and the Australian group The Song Company, and I consider it still the 20th, since I'd intended to put this up yesterday and not managed to. Artistic liberties and such, you know?

Today is the second anniversary of my grandmother's passing.

It's also my birthday.

It was a long ride home in the taxi the night of the 19th. Bumpy, half-lulling darkness, punctuated by rain. My father had told me to come straight home after work; the doctors didn't hold out much hope for her any more. She could go any minute, they said. So I went, on sheer blind faith that she would wait, that somehow, she'd hear me praying again and again, God please don't let her die before I come home, I have to see her, I have to tell her I love her one more time.

A week ago in the hospital I'd stood by her bed and looked into her tired, dull eyes. I told her that I was going back to the city because I had to work. And I told her that I would come home.

Three hours later, taxi paid off, wet from the drizzle outside, I stood by her bed again and I told her, "Grandma, I'm home now. It's ok. You can go if you want to. I'm back. I promised and I'm here." She was already in a coma then. Had been, for several days. My aunts from the US were all home; I was the last one to arrive.

I wanted to believe that she heard me, that she knew for the very last time that I'd kept my word and she could go easy.

That morning of the 20th, 2.15am, she slipped away. No fuss, no drama. Her tired, cancer-ridden body just quietly shut itself down, and let her fall asleep for good.

She gave me the most precious gift - that of knowing she loved me, she heard me, and she waited. With all my heart, I believe she hung on because she was waiting for me.

Two birthdays later, I'm just home from the most wonderful Song Company concert, having been enveloped in music for an entire evening. Just home from having been 'happy birthday'd' by the girls of my choir and my choir director outside the Philharmonic Hall - complete with dissonant harmonies and theatrical showgirl finale, no less. Just home from one of the most special evenings I've had in a long time. I managed to almost trip going downstairs, but caught myself in a twirl on the bannisters; the Song Company tenor who was going down at the time almost caught me. Almost! Part of me wishes I'd let myself fall, so he would have!

And of course, I couldn't leave without having sketched some of the proceedings. That Moleskine is a treasure; there's something about it which makes me want to take it everywhere and record everything of interest, like a life journal in pictures. Alia, thank you -ever- so much for giving it to me. It's like a new dimension, added to my marker exercises.

Last birthday I was singing with the choir, and sick as a dog the entire way.

This year, I got to sit down and -see- a fantastic symphony and a choir. I got serenaded three times by various friends - church, online, and choir - and have had a weekend (I work Saturdays. Any full weekend is a treat.) Not only that I get to go home to visit my parents for an entire -week-!

In three years of birthdays now I'm back in Malaysia? This is definitely the best of them all.

And to everyone who's innundated me with birthday wishes? Thank you. SO. MUCH. You've made this day wonderful.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Moleskines and Pen Heaven!

A couple of days' absence from the sketchbook and pens generally make me entirely too bad-tempered for words. So even though I've been tired, I've been forcing myself to sit down and concentrate on some drawing. And I had a lovely time with Damascene here, which did wonders for my lousy mood:

But that's not the best thing that happened over the last few abysmally horrid days though...

Two days ago, a wonderful, wonderful package dating from December 2006 finally found its way to me. It was from an even more wonderful artist friend who not only gifted me with TWO! TWO! Moleskine journals, she also packed me a batch of new sepia pens of various brands to try out.

Of course I couldn't let that opportunity pass up, right? Only yesterday happened to be Wednesday, and I was supposed to be in operating theatre taking down clinical notes for my boss...

The Moleskine, incidentally, is small enough to slip into my pocket.

Presenting, tongue-in-cheek, what happens in between operations when a certain shivering artist is too cold to stand around on one foot any more, and has nice new drawing pens to try out:

There were a lot of fascinating wires on the anaesthetic machine, that's what those tubes are part of at the far right bottom. I just couldn't draw the stupid machine, there were too MANY wires and things.

She's wearing a lead apron - we were doing a case that involved some small amount of radiation with x-rays.

Our instrument table. There was a lot more on it, but I only had time to get that much before I had to scribble clinicals.

I had a LOT of fun but I've decided that at least for now, I like calligraphic chisel-tipped markers a lot better for getting texture. Still, those sepia pens are -lovely-. They made a beautiful henna pattern on the page I scribbled up today.

It's good to be drawing again. The last few days were -really- depressing, and when I'm depressed, I don't draw - but if I make the effort to, I do feel a lot better.

I really need some whelks!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Dragonfly Afternoon

My back is much better now, and I'm officially off painkillers unless there's more pain on movement. I'm also off the heating pads and I'm able to walk around and bend so that means I'm well on the way to recovery. Which is GREAT. You never quite realize just how much the back is used in everything till you can't -use- it.

I was walking upstairs to the apartment today when I saw a really colourful dragonfly settled on one of the steps. When I bent down and touched it gingerly, it flew up rather drunkenly and landed on the concrete wall near the bannisters. I really need to learn to gauge distance better when I do closeups (yeah, I had to cheat a bit and use a sharpen filter).

Just couldn't resist the interplay of those gorgeous colours. Who would have thought something so small could be so bright and bonny? No wonder the children talk of Faerieland.

The dragonfly was, for some reason known only to itself, trying to do a headstand. I spent about ten minutes taking a few other (really bad) photos of it. When I left, it was already gently fluttering its wings, long slender body straight up to the sky and all the weight of air supported on its bulbous head and huge eyes.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Ring Out, Wild Bells, The Year Is OUCH

As if the New Year didn't have enough in store already, I ended up having to get an injection for my back yesterday so I could move without creaking into tiny pieces onto the floor. Though it was rather educational to see the look that poor doctor gave me after I explained that no, the muscle relaxant I'd tried and the two tablets of prescribed painkillers did zippo, nada, zilch for the pain. When I actually had to stop and think whether or not this was pain that could be classified as 'severe' - I have a very high pain threshold, if it's not debilitating, I don't consider it severe, usually - I could almost see the thoughts in his head: 'I've just found a masochist in my clinic for New Year. Just. My. Luck.'

To put it in perspective, one tablet of abovementioned painkiller takes away my migraines just fine.

And I did go to work today.

I suppose that's why I sketched this girl - because I felt as blue and as in shadow as she did in that photograph.

But as Marcos reminded me though, it's two double-oh seven. That's kind of nice to contemplate, as much as I love Casino Royale.

Tomorrow's going to be better. At least, I keep telling myself it will be. After all, there's always sketching.

And whelks.