Fireworks of my mind

For as long as I can remember I have been blessed (and/or cursed) with being highly sensitive alongside an excellent long term memory, strong sense of empathy, curiosity to know more than the surface area that I am told or learnt, a vivid imagination that opens doors to new worlds, and highly visual mind that paints these. The world around me acts like fireworks with one thing firing off these, which together makes up something uniquely special. I am only ever sad that I have yet to find media beyond the spoken or written word to share these with others, perhaps an installation of some kind. However, I am uncertain if they would understand or get what they are saying and/or showing, as sometimes something very personal or just of that moment in time so may not be able to replicate it again.

As a child I felt like that many grown ups were just as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry had written in Le Petit Prince (‘The Little Prince’) with no imagination, with only my Great Uncle able to tell the difference between a hat and a boa constrictor that ate an elephant. Teachers told me to write about what I knew, not the stories I felt from the world around me from reading newspapers to watching starving people in Ethiopia with famine or war hit families in Bosnia and Iraq all of which called out from beyond the television screen to the rivers and hills with the animals that called them home that I passed regularly when out with family on foot, bus or car. I wanted to tell their stories, the empath in me wished it could do more than watch my fellow humans hurting in ways I could never imagine and giving money felt like a tablet that never cured anything. As well exploring the rivers and hills to tell the stories that people like my ancestors would have known and told the tales of. Being a grown up I still want to tell these stories. but now more determined than ever that I do, as they need to be seen and heard with their own voices not through the biased lenses of the media or anthropomorphise into cutesy images that no longer speak to the younger generation.

My family enjoy the arts and are highly musical: as a child my father and I enjoyed visiting art sales in the local area and beyond, as well as his own painting (sadly I do not remember what he painted) to the playing organ, often Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor with a passion you could feel as his fingers touched the keys and were escaping to the worlds he was playing as I sat beside him equally immersed in this world but with my spin; where as my mother sings alto in choirs and plays the piano a little but lacks the artistry with it as almost a painting with numbers not colour when she does, and does not get art beyond the popular artists of Monet and Turner. This I often find when I hear mainstream pop musicians their voices are similar, perhaps as they are not investing in the emotion, feelings and story of the lyrics and music, which with autotuning have become quite grey and maybe because they did not create it  to begin with (despite claims they have done, but perhaps only changed the odd word if that) and was written for profit not as a piece of art to be admired, it truly is disposable.

The song Pure Imagination from ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ for me celebrates imagination and showing us that it is all around us if we let it. Our imagination can be a comforting way to escape harsh realities in our present world rather than dwelling on what has or is hurting us now, which with an outlet can stop the pain from flowing for a while. I find it hard to understand, despite my empathy, those that may see this is childish or day dreaming when great ideas to art works can come from it, but then I remember an art installation I saw a few years back with the following quote:  we live in a contrasting world – where imagination is a luxury for some but a necessity for others”. I find anything and everything can start the fireworks display in my brain, from something I have seen or heard, a picture to a quote to a song or video, I never know what will next and that is part of the enjoyment and excitement as it is endless.

One example of my recent fireworks display was walking back from a shopping centre/mall on Easter Monday. I have walked down that street umpteen times, yet rarely walk up it as it is a steep hill, which may explain why I had never spotted an old mile stone on it, simply showing Edinburgh 2 miles. I stared at it for a good minute and took a picture of it before walking on but then my imagination kicked in, what was this street and area like when this milestone was new. I am now watching the 21st century disappear around me and be replaced by how it may have looked around three hundred years previously when there were distinct villages all over that are now part of the city of Edinburgh. As my visual mind and imagination worked in tandem to create a scene so different to the one I now found myself in, as tried to use my senses to get a clearer idea of what it was like to be there then. After about five minutes I took my phone out to investigate further the area as curiosity was now wanting a piece of what imagination and mind were doing, as I could not draw or paint the scene I decided to let it and return to the 21st century. I discovered that author and creator of Sherlock Holmes Arthur Conan Doyle had lived during his childhood aged seven to nine (1868-1888) around two minutes from where I had seen the milestone, which ticked a box in my head as to why the doctor’s surgery by the shopping centre/mall bore his name. The house he lived has recently been restored, and believe me I had to resist running back to look and see! Learning this created fresh ideas and colours to paint into the scene, ensuring Arthur was the little boy at one of the houses, that I will continue to see for some time when passing that street.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Dare to imagine

Walking past Summerhall (formerly home to the vet school of the University of Edinburgh) I saw an art installation outside by Mexican installation artist Antonio O’Connell called “Virus”. I took photographs and examined it from different angles before reading his note on it. O’Conell states that that we live in a “contrasting world – where imagination is a luxury for some but a necessity for others”.

I immediately thought of the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in his brilliant book “Le Petit Prince” (The Little Prince), which has a theme of while children have imagination that is capable of understanding the essence of things, grown-ups have had their imaginations encumbered by attachment to the quantifiable. They have lost the curiosity of childhood, and their lives are bound by the here and now. What we see with our eyes is merely a shell; the essential reality of things is detected only by the heart.

I first read the book in French around twenty years ago and is still one of my all time favourites. As a deep thinker with a vivid and visual mind I can see this still true of now. I have a curtains that are a mix of blue flowers, which I swear the leaves spell life or love at one point! Equally, I agree with O’Connell that it has become a luxury as we too often do not take the time to look or read with the creatives or artisans that try to look beyond the boundaries and make us do the same.

If we do not know the answer to what a child has asked us we probably look the answers up on the internet so can explain it in a way they understand. My favourite time of year is autumn, I remember asking my great uncle and later my biology teacher what was happening, despite understanding the science I see it as part of nature’s art. I love the idea that the deciduous trees are the girls of the forests where as the boys are the evergreens; the girls are in all their different coloured dresses ready for the autumn ball, but like Cinderella must disappear at midnight, hence they fall off the trees.

I think using our imaginations as to understand and appreciate what is happening in what we see, read, hear, feel, smell and taste is important as lets us experience more from this world than we can from a book or the internet alone.This in part is why do I not work in a laboratory now; I would be imagining the environment changing as I worked, the seeds or pollen from a particular tree telling me it was growing around 2000 years ago to the present day. The world is an infinite art gallery, with innumerable works of art.

Let your imagination lose, don’t be afraid of being “silly” or “childish”, it’s what matters to and part of you. For example, water from a tap, does it not tickle the fingers or is sand on a beach the stars of the ground? Meanwhile, I’m off to find beech (Fagus sylvatica) seeds that have parachuted from the trees by my house and think of what the escape from each year, perhaps taking some photographs of them too.

© Fi S. J. Brown

John Lennon

There are musicians that touch you with their music and lyrics with a spirit that transcends the time they were written and paint with their every chord and word. Although George Harrison was probably my favourite Beatle, the haunting piano and lyrics of John Lennon’s “Imagine” still hit me like a punch to the heart. Today in 1980 Lennon was murdered, whether you believe the official story or not, is up to you. However, we lost a spirit that modern mainstream music all to often lacks as manufactured as a commodity and not a form of self expression written with passion and love. Thank you John for the music, for giving it to us all.