Friday, February 5, 2010

On rivers #4... synchronicity

I'm big on synchronicity. Swimming with the current on my river theme, this week has been sprinkled with synchronistic moments.
First, as I finished reading Bird by Bird, I came across this passage the author found in a prayer book: "The Gulf Stream will flow through a straw provided the straw is aligned to the Gulf Stream, and not at cross purposes to it."
Anne Lamott goes on to say: "I always tell my students about the Gulf Stream: that what it means for us, as writers, is that we need to align ourselves with the river of the story, the river of the unconscious, of memory and sensibility, of our characters' lives, which can then pour through us, the straw."
Second, I'd forgotten how those grand old dudes, the Impressionists, were right into rivers. Drinking in the breathtaking Masterpieces from Paris exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia brought back memories of smocks and raggy paint brushes and the smell of turpentine in high school art class. Garish teenage attempts at reproducing Monet's waterlillies and Gaugin's portly Tahitian women on canvas adorned many a doting parent's hallway after our prolific painterly phase in Year Eight. 
On loan from the Musee d'Orsay, one painting that I literally could not tear my eyes away from was Monet's In the Norweigan (c1807). "Monet's stepdaughters often appear in his paintings, and here Germaine, Suzanne and Blanche Hoschede are fishing and dreaming in a 'Norweigan', a type of wooden rowing boat. The painter omits sky and earth from his composition, as well as any other reference to the world beyond the river."
In this image, and in all the artworks that referenced rivers, the river infused the scene with life and energy. I swear I would have heard the gentle, poignant lap of oar against tide...had the overzealous clucks and aaahs of a tide of tour groupies, looking all Bug's Life in those crazy oversized headsets, not drowned it out.
Third, I was reminded of how quickly famine turns to flood when the road I was driving home along in the dark of night, without warning turned into a river. Out of nowhere a cloud burst flung lashing torrents across my windscreen. The tar turned slick and angry, the roar of the deluge stereophonic as the line of traffic skeetered towards Sydney. It was scary. I nearly cried me a river.

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