The Hobbit, Three Paintings and Coming Home.


The end of every year is a weird time for me. There is a combination of panic (oh my god, the year’s ending and I haven’t actually started it yet), unrealistic anticipation of change (next year I’m going to grow 5 cm and be super chilled about everything), and extreme fatigue (is it ok to just spend the whole day dreaming of being asleep?) Paradoxically, I also tend to hatch Big New Projects towards the end of a year.

More on that later.

At the end of 2017 I decided it was time to buy myself a house. Eleven years of renting in the city, low property prices and the need to write the next chapter in the book of ‘Greg’s never coming back and you need to re-claim your life’ were pushing me into this decision.

I also had a stack of money sitting in the bank, more than I’d ever had before, because I’d sold the family home in the seaside town of Albany, (sold it almost by accident to my lovely tenants without even putting it on the market), and it was the obvious that the Universe was sending me huge signals.

Unfortunately, that stack of money wasn’t quite high enough to buy me a home in the swanky riverside suburbs I’d been renting in. And nearly four years after my husband Greg passed away, it was finally dawning on me that he wasn’t about to walk through the door and tell me his death wasn’t a Big Mistake and he was actually fine and strong and alive.

I had to work out where I was going to live the rest of my life, alone. I picked the Perth Hills. Property prices were affordable, blocks were large, I could build my studio, and most importantly, my sister Susheel lived there and it felt comforting to have family just down the road.

So I started looking, and my niece Carmel and my brother-in-law, Kevin both at various times, kindly offered to be my house-hunting buddies. We looked at 18 houses in total. I hated them all. Then, 10 minutes before the ‘home open’ closed on a house that had just popped onto the market, Kev and I walked into it and my world changed.

Just like that.

The house sat on the gentle slope and seemed to be suspended in the middle of a jarrah forest. As soon as I walked in the front door, my gaze was led to the uninterrupted view of trees just outside the big glass windows. It took my breath away.

But then I glanced to the right and it felt like my heart actually stopped.

Three paintings hung on the wall. Three paintings that looked incredibly familiar, so familiar I felt like I knew them. Actually, I did. I painted them.

Twelve years ago, while I was still a student, I was represented by a small, beautiful gallery that sold my art. I remember the day those paintings sold. I got a call from the gallerist. “Malini, we just sold 3 of your latest paintings before we even got a chance to label them and hang them on the wall! They were just unpacked and a lady walked in and bought them off the floor! Literally!”

That lady, a total stranger, happened to be the owner of this house that I had just walked into.

Greg had named those paintings The Wine of Astonishment I, II and III. Twelve years later, you could say astonishment was one of the many emotions I was feeling. We spent the ten minutes we had left before the agent closed the house, walking around the house and block, with me trying to think rationally and forget the three paintings. Finally I asked Kev what he thought.

“It has a nice feeling about it.”

Now Kevin is a much-published Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Western Australia, and I hadn’t ever heard him talk of “nice feeling houses” in the 38 years I’d known him. First the paintings, now Kevin is talking about feelings. Interesting.

But wait there’s more. At the very end of the block stood a large tree. On that tree was painted a green door with the word “Baggins” written on it.

And the name of the company that built the house? The Hobbit Building Company.

Why does this mean anything? To say that Greg and I were Lord of the Rings fans would be a bit of an understatement. Well before the movies came out, I had read all the books multiple times. We loved the imagery, the artistry, the poetry, the damn good story telling. We’d been to Hobbiton in New Zealand, which was almost a sacred experience for us. I wrote about it here. We were basically LOTR nerds.

If Greg had’ve materialised from the other side and said aloud to me “buy this house” it couldn’t have been clearer.

I felt a little drunk on the Wine of Astonishment. And I’ve never had a glass of wine in my entire life. ——————————————————–

I moved in 4 months later, and shortly after that, through a chance encounter with Neil Elliott, the organiser of the Mundaring Artists Open Studios, I was invited to be a part of this wonderful initiative where artists in the region open their studios to the public to show and sell their creative offerings.

Just like that, 2018 became the year I finally broke the artistic drought that has been stopping me from holding a major exhibition since Greg died.

I don’t have a studio (yet). So I’m using the outer walls of my little cedar cottage and the large deck that hugs it, as my gallery space. And I’ve converted part of my lounge into my painting room. It sort of looks like creative hell exploded in my living room and had babies.

My dog is befuddled by the constantly changing surface area of our home. Her fur is covered in paint. My fingers are stiff from holding a paintbrush and my arms ache from the unaccustomed workload of creating art day and night. My heart soars one minute and panics the next. Making art is a risky business. You put your heart and soul into your work, that’s essentially destined to hang on someone else’s wall … or to be stored under your bed. You just don’t know. So you give in to the creative addiction and just keep making art with no certainty, absolutely none, that your work has value in the eyes of the beholder. Its equal parts frightening and exciting.

I’m calling this, my 11th solo exhibition, Coming Home.

Like my paintings, the title is multi-layered. On the very obvious level, I’m inviting you all to come on over to my home 🙂 Then there is the story of me buying my own home, for the first time, on my own, and this choice leading to this show. And then, perhaps most importantly, there is the journey we’re all on… of coming home to ourselves, which has been accelerated for me since I lost Greg.

I’ve had many guides and mentors in my life. But making art has been my greatest teacher. My faith, my service, my devotion has rolled into one activity, that requires me to practice my core beliefs and see them taking shape under the brush. When I lose sight of where I’m going, my painting reminds me that no one actually knows where we’re going, we just make a mark and let go, trusting that it will all come together at the end. And that every single messy, imperfect stroke, bump, image, line and dot is just part of a layer that eventually unfolds into another layer. Just like every single messy imperfect bit of our lives.

Creating something, when before there was nothing, is a mysterious phenomenon. It’s been the single most important phenomenon in helping me find my way home.

So my friend … pick one of the last two weekends of October, come on over to my house and see what I’ve made for you 🙂

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

 

Comments 44

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  1. Mal, i look forward to your blog. I get a little tingle when i see its arrived . A reminder of life’s journey touches me

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  2. OMG! Like Shanthi, I know the components of the story, but when you tell it like this, it’s hard not to see the workings of the Universe, and Greg doing his Magic Tricks from the Land of Mysteries. What a treat this exhibition will be for all of us.

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  3. I so enjoy reading your blog. Like Yvonne above, I look forward to it and feel excited seeing it sitting in my box. Thankyou for sharing your stories; especially the ones that confirm chaos is a totally acceptable part of creativity and where ever I am is exactly where I’m supposed to be. Looking forward to seeing your amazing creations and beautiful You soon!!

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      Awwww that’s so kind of you my dear friend. Chaos is definitely a part of it. Uncertainty is the constant companion of Creativity. I think it calls us to try to stay grounded inside so that we can deal with it. See you soon!x

  4. Love the way the Universe works! I work every weekend but one of my colleagues wanted to swap a day and give me a Sat or Sun off in Oct. Rather than pick any right away, I said please wait. I feel I’ll want to do something on one of those dates, just don’t know which yet … I think your exhibition was it. I’ll take the 28th off 🙂

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  5. Beautiful! my marvellous friend. Read your post and thought of this in keeping with the LOTR theme. Fitting I think with what you create- light and high beauty. “Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach”

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  6. Thank you Malini for the beautiful story of your journey. It was a pleasure to read. I would love to see your new home and paintings but I’m travelling at the moment.

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      Oh that’s sad Wanda! If you’re back before the 28th of Oct, pop around! Thank you so much for reading and for you kind words. x

  7. Lovely Blog Malini.
    Greg never left you
    He’s always with you through so many signs- Mother Nature but especially birds…
    So glad you know this now …
    Our spirit angels are always communicating with us – through birds and our intuition. We have have to be in the NOW to see it- Eckhart Tolle.
    All the best
    Sorry I missed ur exhibition- been unwell…
    Jazz

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      You didn’t miss it Jazz! It’s coming up on Oct 21, 22 and 27,28. Please come, it would be lovely to see you. I hope you’re getting better. xx

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  8. We can’t wait for the exhibition! So exciting! And, how incredible Dad named the paintings The Wine of Astonishment only for you to be so astonished by the paintings and the trees and Uncle Kev talking about his feelings…… there are really no accidents and it is so amazing when things just UNFOLD…. and are laid out before you and it is such a surprise but it is meant to be…..

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      Uncle Kev took exception to the description! He said the house had a nice feeling, but I never talked about my feelings! 🙂 🙂 And yes, Dad named those paintings TWELVE years ago!!

  9. There are no coincidences in life…all is as it is meant to be
    I’m looking forward to the exhibition …good luck and stay strong

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      Thank you so much Pixi! Gum trees smelling good and kookaburras laughing – I’ve really turned into a true blue 🙂

  10. What a beautiful story, you are truly an amazing writer Malini. Wish I could come over immediately.

    Malini, I’m not much of a writer/explainer…….if there’s such a word hahaha…….would you need an apprentice, by any chance? I’m at a very interesting stage of my life, where I feel the need to break away from life and just paint and paint……I’d be truly happy to be able to do this anytime you are able to……and would consider it an honour to learn from you.

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      Parames, I’m flattered to be asked 🙂 But the best way to learn from me is to come to one of my workshops! Thank you so much for your kind words, and I look forward to seeing you at my exhibition! xx

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      Chinwei! Hope you come over to my house for the show! So happy to hear from you and thank you for the lovely comment 🙂 x

  11. Dear, dear Mal…

    Why does it feel like when you let us into your world so generously that I can breathe a little deeper, accept myself as I am that much more and celebrate where I am in the unknown and let go of clutching at the walls and straining my ears for answers….thank you for the inspiration to let go.

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      oh kate, your words are rather poetic and inspiring to me 🙂 I’m so glad this story resonates with you. We’re all so human. I struggle to let go to, but when I write the stories, it reminds me.

  12. Oh Malini what a wonderful post. You were certainly meant to have that particular home…as against just getting a house. I can imagine Greg smiling and thinking ‘yeah she listened, looked and found her special place’. He would rejoice your bravery, spirit and love. Go girl.
    Helen G

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      Do you think so Helen? Sometimes I wonder if Greg is shaking is head at me and wondering how many MORE signs he needs to send me that everything is ok and I’m being looked after! But he certainly sent some clear ones then! xx

  13. A beautiful story – A beautiful heart. So glad you came home. May your journey be filled with many more miracles and blessings.

  14. Oh Malini, I did not know the story of how you chose your new home (how it chose you!) and it is a spine tingling story. Thank you so much for sharing. It must be so cathartic for you to do so but at the same time it is so inspirational for those who read it, including me! xo

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