How old were you when you found your wings ? When did you first feel in control of your choices? Or grounded enough to let go of your fear? Whose fear was it anyway ?
Did you climb a mountain in a sweltering landscape and peek at your new perspective through the gap in the clouds?
Did you find God one day while eating your toast?
Did you reach Nirvana whilst touching the high notes with your choir or dancing with your tribe around a flaming bonfire?
Or understand fully one sunrise your need for grounding in earth, as you smelled the air and witnessed your hard labour flourish?
Or maybe a little of all of these?
Did you then forget your epiphany as soon as you landed back on planet earth with a plop when someone needed you or worse, wiped your seed of new hope away ? Did the technicolour get switched back off ?
Did a voice in your head tell you how unrealistic your positivity was?
When the clear glistening ideas in your mind unfurl, new and shiny and exciting, like a glossy tropical flower You just know that someone will come and cut your petals off. Often someone who in theory should have your back.
This is the vulnerable point where many fledgling dreams die. Trying to push against the system which surrounds anything different, whether at home or work is often too difficult. It is easier to drift back and become engulfed in the ‘way it has always been’
Most people know who they are. What brings them joy and a sense of pure satisfaction. But we are fed so many alternatives to this core knowledge, and are often hungry for a little more validation. Sometimes these vital gaps in our unconscious self worth came from feelings we have when we are little and can’t yet fly.
A Baby seagull made its home on top of our caravan this Summer. Nesting in our rooftop chimney, a fluffy little chick was waited on by a village of seagull parents; decorating its roof with hard to clean graffiti. Baby seagulls are very demanding. Screeching their needs very vocally for not only their parents but all adult birds within a two mile radius. Relentlessly they deliver takeaway delights to their offspring with their gruesome picnics, and swoop low and hard on any unexpecting human passers by.
While we travelled this Summer, she stayed still and grew fat, filling out her fluffy edges with spotty brown feathers. And on our return, she was almost as big as her mum, and still, she cried and cried for food. Once fed, the crying started again with the rapidly less patient mum nudging her baby to move .
These seagull parents were getting fed up now.
Over the next few days, the crying continued. But nobody came. She knew she could fly. They knew she could fly. She realised food was going to be slightly harder to come by. So she cried harder. Her feathers were turning a lighter shade of grey. She walked to the edge and back again, and sat down. Her cries became more plaintive and although beady eyes watched from nearby rooftops, nobody came to deliver dinner. Until. there was nothing more for it. It was time….
After several short trips to nearby treetops and a couple of shed roofs soon all that remained on the caravan roof was the Jackson Pollock masterpiece.
There is a time, when nobody comes. Sometimes we wait a lifetime for that reassurance and feed, and believe we cannot function without it. We have a core belief that we can’t. … (fill in the blank) That a teacher, a parent, a partner, or any person we give permission to have (or had ) power over us, and once that is delivered ; we will then be whole.
All living creatures have a right to love and nourishment but we know this is seldom true for everyone.
If we are fortunate, we are fed the morsels we need to build our strength, courage and resistance, to build healthy bones, lives, relationships and feel loved.
It takes courage to say, thank you for feeding me, but I can take it from here. That I have enough belief in my self to choose whom to take advice from . It takes courage from those who love you to also let you go, make mistakes and come back, bruised but more wise. And when there is no Big seagull watching you must hear your own voice.
You’ll hear other squawks and caws, creating more choices, more distractions. Jostling for attention and swaying your resolutions and ideas with promises. A person who fears change will fear yours. “Stay safely in your comfort zone that matches ours, think these thought because they match the system we created.”
And on a superficial level we get thrown life changing ‘temptations’ “Be the best version of yourself with our new products. Buy a whole new set of clothes, get a better job, a shiny new car, and always a new sofa… THEN you will be the perfect person you always knew you could be! Hurry while stocks last. On sale now. a new improved you. No mess, no clutter, just competition ready human.”
When it still doesn’t feel better, when we are still hungry for something else; that’s the gift of looking deeper into our own needs.
This Summer has given us a new perspective. One which we hadn’t planned, but clearly it was in the plan all along.
As an art teacher I have spent my life collecting resources for others to use, from shells to old objects, books, materials, plants, metal things, glass things, fabric things, beautiful shiny objects and tiny things that fit into the palm of your hand. A classroom was packed with labelled boxes and lovely stuff to draw from.
When I left my teaching post through ill health, my huge supply of resources was lugged from house to house, into storage facilities and a basement, back to the shed and back to another art room. It was whittled down and down but at each stage of the life of the stuff, people were using it and creating beautiful artwork. It has been my nemesis for as long as I can remember. Collecting things for people to use makes so many people happy; it was never a question of not keeping things
People donate art materials to you which is amazing and for classes an Aladin’s cave of colourful ephemera grows. Easily the bags and boxes also grow in quantity, and without adequate permanent storage- one becomes a permanent bag lady. This state relies on meticulous organisation, warm weather for easier mobility, an army of volunteers to help lift from the car and bend to the floor for any stray tissue paper and stray clutter, not to mention the energy needed to create in the first place. The reality of wheeling bags of art materials in a force ten gale while a rainbow of pens skittles off down the road is highly likely.
There is a time for everything
And a place too.
Yesterday, after making a decision to start focusing on a bigger project of my own, my remaining boxes were returned from the community centre where I was teaching . Oh no, boxes of stuff again.!
After spending a Summer literally throwing out everything I own and starting a home renovation now we are remaking our own home with less clutter, I could have wept! But I asked for these things back. Why on earth did I do that? Things just keep coming back, growing in volume.. again! .
In amongst the detritus of making equipment, there were sketchbooks and memories, boxes of collected resources, things donated and found. Things which will give pleasure again. Working in the art field always comes with a running commentary of ‘funny’ labels. Junk, clutter, crap, stuff or worse. But look back. Look at how that plastic became a dragon sculpture. Look at how that ink was layered in rich textures over all that scrap and made this fantastic collage.
Our things, the ‘stuff’ we collate and have an affinity with, create a thread with others. When someone else decides to throw away, comment about, or sabotage our things without our permission, it makes decisions about what we need, and for some precious objects leaves a physical loss. In all of the Art spaces I have run, we have kept a wide and varied selection of materials for every project one could think of. Even though the hoard was very organised, being forced to cull occasionally is healthy! The eye of a non interested observer however will only ever see this, (below) and make that the excuse for treating stuff-which-doesn’t-slot-into-a-neat-category badly.
Until someone tells them its ART , and then they pay ££££££££
Then, a week later, it happened again. More things were going to be travelling to us. Do you think the universe was trying to tell us something? This was the first time ever that everything I owned would be in one place. After my first reaction of horror, dread and wondering if I could crawl under the covers with a sketchbook and Netflix, this stuff was being given its own second chance, to fit, or not fit, for where we are now. Just like we decided to give this home a chance, despite a few crows pecking at our corn. For the first time, there was nobody telling us it had to go somewhere else.
The value we place on objects is so unique to us, an extension of our selves through our space and our clothes, our belongings and our creativity. If we don’t care about these things, or let others mock, its personal . Allow a child to love a rock collection and a row of conkers. There will be a time when we are gone and none of these things we own matter. But we do, and we live on in the worth we allow others to enjoy in us.
I had been buying things for years and giving them away. Then, weirdly, a delivery of almost the same thing would come from somewhere else, it would come back to me in a different way, for example as a gift or a donation. Without realising it, I had been viewing my things through the eyes of my critics, slightly judgingly and disposing of them often because I could hear the voice..
There were sketchbooks or materials we could use with other classes. And although most of it went into the recycling. I enjoyed the little pocket of time carved out to really appreciate and look at how it got here. And what we need now. And what we don’t. Placing value on each item , purely based on my own voice, I have to admit was a lovely feeling. When we realise why we carry a weight of doubt, and for how long, it is a profound gift to let it go.
Looking through boxes of old teaching resources I was blasted back to that time, those energies and passions. Not just the resources used to teach Art lessons and critical work, but the drive to focus on particular artists, Frida Kahlo, Pierre Bonnard, John Piper, The Pre Raphaelites. The design lessons of masks for a Midsummer Night’s Dream, of world festivals, of Alice in Wonderland and natural form. A whole bank of ideas, images, interests and inspirations. I still love all those artists. Drawn to since childhood, many Artists still resonate, and I find synchronicities and parallels with how I like to work.
In gaining the ability to throw away , we must trust the ability to keep. This pertains to any area of our lives- clothing, activities, foods that make us unwell. Whatever pops into your mind as you read this. What will come again easily is what you need and what is precious. I should have asked myself at five or ten to tell myself now what I would like. Most of it would still be true.
Sometimes a journey can be much more than you imagine. The 3000 miles we drove to find a potential new home ended up with an appreciation of where we are now. Waiting for my seagull family to land with dinner was a red herring.
There was however, a whole aviary of supporters in the nest
Whatever you might be not doing because you are waiting for permission; just do it. People can and do wait a lifetime for a morsel that never comes, a crumb for their inner baby bird. Approval is overrated. Do no harm to others and strive to enlighten your self.
Trying to apply your hearts desire against a soundtrack of criticism, whether ‘kindly’ unprompted advice or hostile, fear addled barbs; is like flying in a tornado.
We gave away all our food, drove 3000 miles, took five animals around the country, packed up our house and unpacked it again, closed off every avenue, and in coming home; found that all the people and paths that were meant to be for us, were still here, quietly giving us the thumbs up. Those who believe in you will do so no matter how you take flight.
Our Summer wasn’t what we expected but it truly was what we needed. We found strength and courage, and a bigger picture. . Despite the madness, I would do ( most of it ) over again. We could have chosen a whole new place but got to unwrap the gift of life here again. Much has been happening at Skye Blue house since we returned, with an almost constant paintbrush in hand. The next post will unveil all the hard work!
Travelling helps root us back home and get perspective on the life and accomplishments we have achieved so far , with or without a team in the pits
So, replace that fear in your chest with a few helpful butterflies…Then Spread your wings and leap off the caravan roof.. You might not get where you thought you were going. … .but there is a big horizon waiting.
Tell your seagull self;
To live a life you’ve never lived; you must do what you’ve never done
Take one step towards the edge and the rest will follow