Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Day 389-390, 394-395- Through The Window

Will it pique? 

Will you peer?

Will they please?


On the side of a wall that the world sees only through a broken window, I have carefully hung old prints that once belonged to the Old Man. 

These are unexceptional prints, simply encased in an equally unexceptional way. 4 pieces of  ill-fitting, dirty wooden pieces accentuating the coarseness of the drawings, making the yellow of the paper seemed yellower. 

Did you happen to know, by the way, that papers yellow because they are made from wood?

Yet, yellow and coarse they may be, these prints are also pretty and I think they liven up an otherwise dead corner. Most importantly, they are reminders of an essential part of the Old Man; the half of him that was the gardener. 

On the floor underneath the mixing bench and in a place where the world hardly notices, lie a stack of papers. You can almost hear them whisper; these blank canvases of artists. Do they hide secrets or hold promises? Will they eventually end up in museums or be fit only for lining trash bins in their final days? 

Last but not least, in a damaged wicker where the world will never see are placed the logs for the home's stove. Tucked away in neat little piles, they are forgotten until it turns too cold or when the caffeine needs come calling.

Wood, paper, art, wood. 

In a moment of sudden revelation or insight, I realise I have unwittingly by these placement depicted the evolution of paper from wood and then paper to art, yellowing back to wood. 

So one day, if you do chance upon an abandoned house and notice a broken window, try peering through it. Who knows, you may bear witness to the ecosystem of art .


I write this post, hopefully in the aftermath of the worst haze condition that Singapore has experienced. I say hopefully only because at the time of writing, the forest fires in Indonesia and the cause of this terrible smog have yet to be abated. Some say the fires have in fact worsened. Due to unexpected winds, Singapore has enjoyed a respite from the haze since Sunday. Today, a freak but much welcomed hailstorm in some parts of this country has dissipated the haze even more. 

Although what we call the haze has been almost an annual recurrence since the mid 90's, what happened this year was so bad that the Pollutant Standards Index hit unprecedented hazardous levels for 3 days in a row (3-400, normal readings are 50 and below). Malaysia, another victim of this haze, has had to declare a state of emergency in Muar, an area close to my brother-in-law's family and a mere two plus hour's drive from Singapore. 

My heart goes out especially to the people of the Riau province, Indonesia, where the forest fires are. The pollutant indexes are twice that of Singapore's (a record 900 yesterday morning) and on Friday, the Indonesian government too finally declared a state of emergency there.  A grave shortage of effective masks, air purifiers, even air-conditioned spaces has affected thousands of Riau residents; hundreds of them in hospital as we speak, for respiratory problems. 

These forest fires, widely known to have been started by big conglomerates dealing in palm oil and paper, is a common slash and burn method deployed by these companies as the cheapest way to clear land for re-plantation, deforestation or logging activities. Thanks to the worst haze in history, there are finally some efforts made to expose them this year with the governments in Indonesia and Singapore pledging to prosecute these companies for their irresponsible conduct. There are also calls to boycott products, including papers, produced by these companies.

As for me, in that 3 hazardous days of haze,  I have had to escape even from my own home to hole up in the air-conditioned room of my sister's. The choking haze not only forced me indoors, it also gave me a constant headache, blocked nose and sleepless nights. Even now, temperature is at a purgatorial 35 degrees.  

The country went into a panic. People started hoarding masks, buying up 100s , in turn causing a severe shortage and more panic buying. There are unscrupulous traders who jacked up prices of the masks but there are also good Samaritans who went around distributing masks in the poorer parts of town. I myself own a grand total of 1 mask, given to me by my mum with a meager leftover stock from the SARS days, 10 years ago.

A time to test the best of us or a time to bring out the worst in us. For me, it is also a timely reminder never to take fresh air, blue skies or a single tree for granted. For all of us, the clarion call to save the diminishing rainforest of South East Asia must surely sound louder and more urgently than ever before. 


The Old Maid said...

I am sorry for what you all are going through right now. I do hope and pray the weather will be better soon.
It's so true at the time of any kind of crisis we test ourselves and there is always someone who will use it to enrich himself ...
(I am the one who is always looking into open windows ...;)) I love every colour and detail you put there, dear Sam.:):)
Hugs and kisses

Emanuela Valenza said...

Ciao Sans, ho letto con attenzione tutto quello che hai scritto. Purtroppo gli incendi dei boschi sono un sciagura che ogni anno si ripresenta anche in certe particolari regioni d'Italia.Certamente mi sembra di capire che in questo momento è per il vostro Paese, allarme rosso e dai fumi bisogna sicuramente difendersi per non restare intossicati e c'è chi purtroppo da questo se ne approfitta.Hai toccato anche un tasto molto giusto del ciclo del legno da cui si ricava la carta un elemento molto importante e quindi da non distruggere. Il lavoro che hai realizzato e le tue immagini sono splendide e piene di vita vissuta. Grazie per questo momento di riflessione e auguro che questi incendi possano terminare il più presto possibile.Un abbraccio, Manu

Margriet said...

I love to look through windows!! Love the flower pictures on the wall, it's a great collection and I'm sure the old man would approve. I didn't know that paper yellowed because it actually is wood....but it sounds very logical now you mentioned it :-)

That haze sounds terrible..I hope it will disappear soon. It must be awful not to be able to breath fresh air.

Ilona said...

Hi Sans! Thank you for giving us the chance to take a peek ;)! I love what I see in this very special room, Susan, you made some beautiful miniatures! Well done, it is fantastic work as usual!
I am so sorry to hear about this terrible haze, you are right that the world urgently have to think about this issue! It must be awful for you all for not being able to breath fresh air for so long, I'll think of you, dearie!
Hugs, Ilona

Susan said...

My heart goes out to you living in such difficult conditions, I pray for weather patterns to bring relief.

Love, love your prints but adore the basket full of odds and ends beneath them, I love busy baskets!

Daydreamer said...

Dear Sans! The botanic prints are Just what he would want on his walls! They are not at all ordinary.... but are the careful expressions of an artful and observant eye! To fill a dark corner and only be seen through the window... as if in a Dream... only a glimpse... faded but beautiful.... Isn't that exactly what Memories are? And for any who look... they must wonder what else was there.... once upon a time!
Yes, the old windows of abandoned homes are a Time Machine... but whose memories they are we can never really be sure!
As for the wood to paper.... are not the masks themselves made of paper fibers? Is it too ironic that the Fires burn to make space for the trees that are made into paper.... that are made into the masks to protect you from the smoke of the fires... It is a Terrible cycle! And hopefully the result of the extreme damage will be to bring about changes that are way overdue!
I Love what you have added to this little studio... everything you add makes it more real!
I am glad you can breathe again... and sleep... and I hope it stays that way!

Plushpussycat said...

Beautiful work, Sans! I loved peering through the window!

I'm so glad that the governments are going to prosecute (and hopefully make illegal) those terrible practices. It's greed, plain and simple, that would cause others to put people through such misery. You and those around you are in my thoughts. xo Jennifer

Eliana said...

Não é possível resistir, eu tive que espiar pela janela; as gravuras são maravilhosas, é uma linda visão.

* que bons ventos soprem e melhorem a qualidade do ar para vocês.

contar said...

the window and the pictures are really adorable represent nostalgia for a good gardener.
are worrying their news on the fires and pollution that affects them, hopefully soon the conditions are best for you
a hug

la ventana y los cuadros son adorables realmente representan la nostalgia de un jardinero muy bien.
son preocupantes sus noticias sobre los incendios y la contaminacion que les afecta, espero que pronto las condiciones sean mejores para ustedes
un abrazo

Sans! said...

Ewalina, there was rain again this morning and finally, YIPPPPPEEE, my headache went away this morning :).

Having grown up very sheltered in Singapore, I haven't really been through a catastrophe in my life. Something like the haze this year is truly a time for reflection.

And about windows like this, I think I will only peer through if I am quite sure no one's in :):).

Sans! said...

Mia cara Manu, ti ringrazio molto per la vostra gentile e parole di conforto. Questo smog ha causato molta rabbia nei 3 paesi, Singapore, Indonesia e Malesia. Spero che sarete in grado di visitare un giorno e si sarà in grado di sapere come incantevole ed esotica di questa parte del mondo è. La bellezza naturale nel Sud Est asiatico è davvero mindblowing e oserei dire non sarò mai stupito di quanto la natura è ancora possibile trovare qui. Questo è il motivo per cui le persone sono veramente sconvolto le pratiche irresponsabili delle aziende e di come givernments lasciarli scappare. Spero davvero che qualcosa di buono venire fuori da questo disastro e, infine, gli sforzi reali può essere fatto per porre fine agli incendi boschivi dannosi una volta per tutte! :) :)

Sono molto commosso per i vostri complimenti per il mio lavoro. Trovo molto conforto nella loro creazione. Un abbraccio a te, Manu.

Sans! said...

Margriet, it was hell not to be able to breathe crisp clean air !
Singaporeans were half joking about how easy it is to invade us. No need any kind of gas, just burn forests! arghhhhhh

You know how much I love trees and one point I felt like hugging all my trees and promising them I will never burn them! :)

Psst, I went to peer through your windows. I am quite glad you don;t seemed to have added anything else to that room so far :):)

Sans! said...

Ilona, hopefully, hopefully, my fingers and toes and ears and eyes crossed hopefully, the worst is over.

Rain came again today and the haze was almost forgotten here. Truth is when the worst haze hit Singapore , they found 175 hot spots from satellite pictures. Yesterday, they found 250. We therefore hope for continuous rain to save all of us .

Thank you for your kind comments. They mean a lot to me :).

Sans! said...

Susan , I remembered how not that long ago, you had very good humouredly posted about the natural disaster (heavy downpour and flood?) you have had to endure.

I will try to remember that spirit of yours and keep my chin up :).

teehee, "busy baskets" is such a lovely term . I will steal it for my title one day. That by the way is a basket of gardening paraphernalia I made for this house :). It was my 1st post this year titled "Basket of Tools " :).

Sans! said...

Betsy, you have the most lyrical way of leaving comments and reading your words often leave me with smiles or sighs of satisfaction :).

Guess who was constantly in my mind when I was making decisions about this wall? You of course. The window was in fact "cut out" only after the pictures were hung. Without the window, there was seriously no way the pictures could ever be seen once all the walls and the 2nd floor goes up.

Took me a while to decide whether I should do away with the 2nd floor. That's why this house is strange when it comes to scale. Many of the items were created when I still couldn't decide it would be 1:12 (without the 2nd floor) or 1:24 (with 2nd floor) . :):)

In the end, I decided to throw scale out of the window and just work on pure feel :).

Working on this post, I drew many references with what we went through in the haze. Things I took for granted like open windows became a no no when the pollutants were too high. I didn't know a simple thing like not being able to open your windows could really bring me down. :)

Sans! said...

Jen, THANK YOU! Having been and lived in Taiwan where citizens are way more vocal , you can imagine how bad the situation here must be when people get angry ! :)

I think the corporations responsible must be punished the same way irresponsible ships caused oil spills in ocean.

Margriet said...

You didn't look closely enough Sans...because I did add something ;-)
Just wait a minute...I will take some better photos LOL

Sans! said...

Eliana, você não sabe como estou emocionado agora que os ventos estão aqui. Chuva, música para os meus ouvidos :). Eu sou muito grato por ar fresco, para a brisa fresca, e por amigos como você :)

Sans! said...

Contar, you are so kind to leave such sweet words. Thanks to good thoughts from you, things are much better here now. abrazos y besos :)

Sans! said...

Margriet, maybe I should stop peering through the window and just smash it open to see better ! teehee but if the new stuff you put in is not from the Maharajah, then I must insist that you leave about .5" space empty on your shelves!

Margriet said...

Take a look dear Sans....

Lucille said...

I'm so sorry for what you're going through. So happy your headache is gone. I enjoyed peeking through the window. It was an enchanting sight. An atmosphere of mystery hangs about the little place and I love it. The paintings are adorable. Take care. You will be in my thoughts, you and your people!

BiWuBär said...

I really love to have a look into other houses via windows, especially during Christmas season when most windows are lovely decorated and lit with (electrical) candles - and I really love peeking through this special window in your abondoned house, getting a glimpse of the newest wonders that can be found at that magical place. - It really makes me sad reading about the haze and all the things you have to go through. I really keep my fingers crossed that the rain (I've read your answers to comments of course) will keep on. You're right, we take so many things for granted which are in fact generous gifts of life and nature we should be thankful for.

Best wishes and hugs

Maria Ireland said...

The view through your window is beautiful. I love your flower pictures. I am very sorry to hear of your troubles I hope it clears up soon. I hate to hear of trees being destroyed it makes me sad. Thinking of you all. Take care.
Hugs Maria

Elizabeth S said...

Hi Sans! Disasters are abundant everywhere it seems! Here in Canada specifically southern Alberta, there are floods that are washing peoples livelihoods away in torrents and there you are a victim of raging fires and the haze that they have produced. With all of that choking smoke,and heat I don't know how you have managed!? Your artist's studio must be like a mental retreat as well as a rejuvenating one. God bless and keep you safe and healthy during this hazardous time Sans. You are very dear to all of us!


Sans! said...

Elizabeth, your words moved me so much ! Thank you , dear friend.

You know, much as working on my artist's studio helps calm me, what is even more rewarding is how the work becomes a portal to this community. You guys are such a source of inspiration, comfort and joy. It is impossible to wallow for long. And for everyone who is going through a tough patch, I wish for them support like this one.

And yes, I say my thanks now for another good day with very little haze.

Sans! said...

(((((((Maria Ireland))))))))

Firstly, hooray that the flowers reached you :).

And then double hooray for me that you are here. :)

Sans! said...

Birgit, one of the most poignant scenes I will never forget is that of the little match girl peeking through a window in the snow watching a family having a Christmas feast?

Isn't it interesting how this "peering through the window" scene in movies are often sad?

But yes,when I was in Europe that year with you, I remember doing a lot of peering in especially in Holland :).

Sans! said...

Lucille, I didn't elaborate when I said to Ewalina, I only peer in if I am sure no one is in. I guess it has to do with scary movies again. I am often afraid of 1) being mistaken for a stalker 2) a face suddenly appearing at the window, scaring the shit out of me 3) that face has blood streaming down ...*screeeeeam!

Seriously though, I love throwing my windows wide open for the fresh air and for the view. I am not sure I will enjoy people looking in though :). hehe but in my mini world, I welcome any kind of peering, peeking and please , do so to your heart's contend!

Marta said...

Hello from Spain: Awesome work. I really like peering through the window. I'm so glad that the Governments are going to prosecute Those awful practices. You and those around you are in my thoughts. Courage. Keep in touch

Ascension said...

Hola Susan
Solo puedo decirte que me encantan esos cuadros que seguramente ese viejo hombre apreciera muchisimo.
El papel se esta perdiendo igual que las cartas y tu consigues darle vida a todo ello.
Me encantan tus fotografias.
Siento no poder leer todo pero me he quedado sin traductor.
besitos ascension

Drora's minimundo said...

Dear Sans I am sorry for you and all the people who had to go throug this awful haze. I hope the companies responsible for it will get their due punishment.
I loved peeking through your window.
Wonderful wall and corner!
Hugs, Drora

carmen said...

fantásticas imágenes....

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