It was all a bit of a mad dash, with not much time to panic as it was a cancellation. But the surgery was very much needed as the drawing hand was really struggling with bad arthritis and pain. A massive thankyou to my friends and even to people I know only a little, for being so so kind, positive on facebook, offering lifts, chocolates, flowers, getting easy to cook groceries, gifts and the all important loo rolls! We have the loveliest people in our lives.
Anything is possible with a little patience, trust and chocolate !!
Back soon with words, all our love, Liz and the zoo xxx 🙂
Hello yellow light and hopeful thoughts wherever you are.
In these ambiguous months of daring to hope, but not wanting to feel any more disappointment, we stand on the edge of a life we might step into.
For some of you, your path might have turned a new direction entirely, leaving you a bit floaty. Reality hovers in a hazy cloud of internet balanced with the real life intense everyday dramas played out in our homes, and nobody knows what the next move will be.
Thinking about most things only gets us so far.
Trying to make sense of the changes and losses, and staying positive has been tough. Our sparks of hope might have been dashed too often to stay upbeat . The mundane has taken centre stage over bigger rewards and adventures, pools of simple pleasures between the TV shows and endless meals.
We have found new ways to make the usual , unusual. Our minds have been busy balancing coping strategies, in essence, the left brain trying to make sense of what is a global unfathomable phenomenon with analysis and logic, whilst the right communicating it’s emotional response through creativity and self expression.
This tender balance of logic and free creative will, is an essential survival recipe , and a basis to nurture your creative process.
The vastness of our choices, our decision making skills (or not) and freedom of expression shrank in almost every area in the last two years, going out, meeting people, communicating normally, feeding our souls with new wonders and different visual excitements , our vistas shrank. Our pools of reference and the connectivity which established where we were at that given moment was suddenly much smaller. And what can happen if we are not careful, is we start to forget the things that mattered to us in the time before. Think about when lockdown first happened and you looked trough old photos, reminding yourself of old clothes and cars you loved, people you cared about and lost touch with. It is the same process with the things that you love to do, that enable your voice to sing.
Whole chunks of important fuel for the spirit which we aren’t able to taste for months and months. We forget what beauty and drama is out there as our lives begin to curtail us layer by layer.
We forget how to express joy at this wonder, because the powerful surge of happiness that comes with that freedom feels like it has gone, or is not as urgent. But this is when we need it most.
Your mind is amazingly curious. Casting out a net of constant questions, and catching all kinds of fishy thoughts, from tiny quick darting silver ones you hardly have a chance to grasp, to thundering great chunky ones that sit in the net taking up space and not letting new ones in. When I was little I asked a lot of the usual questions children do, but was often told to top being silly. So I found listening ears in older relatives who loved to talk, in looking after other people’s children as I grew up, small curious beings who saw the magic in life still, I read and read and found myself down rabbit holes and in faraway trees and I drew .
And a dialogue of sorts grew in the observing of everyday things around me, seen in a different light. People were fascinating to me. And when I realised that some of them not only talked back but had questions of their own, thanks Gilda. For my introduction into kitchen philosophy at a tender age over a cup of tea.
Our thoughts like our ideas, our appetites, come in waves of intensity. I can often pack away a problem into a small case in my brain somewhere for days, only to give it a whole unadulterated day to itself later. Have a sketchbook or notebook handy Always! Art is truly made in the cracks of the day. Padded out from a scribble on a paper napkin or a voice memo in the bath. Catch your inner ideas, they have to battle with a lot of boring rational thoughts. There will never be a perfect time to create.
But putting together twenty scraps you’ve made over a month in ten minute bursts after the house is quiet in the morning, becomes something real and alive.
What I have come to appreciate is the value of intense creativity. In the central vortex of the act of completing a piece of work, I am lost and meditative. Words are gone and instinct takes over. I knew it was something I couldn’t do when I had a very young child, but you might be more disciplined than me!
To get to this sweet spot, is a luxury I have learned to value drawing again throughout the pandemic. The child and Bear seem to have developed an understanding of my mental disappearance whilst still being in the room. After 12 and a half years of my ‘mum brain’ being on high alert, and 12 years of being a Stepmother to two small boys before that, it is a lovely escape. Even better because it is shared with others . And all of our life experiences so far feed into those simple drawings.
Sometimes you must put in every tiny scrap of detail in a piece of work
Sometimes the detail speaks for itself and is of itself without words
I know I need to be both of these Artists
That without one type of creating, the other makes no sense either. That all these years having to decide which artist I was: was a waste of good thinking time, or maybe it was the path to truly knowing my path.
Going to an academy or school which pigeon holes you into a type of artist can be a wonderful thing. But it can also deter you from ever trying anything new My favourite accomplishment of the few years since retiring from teaching art has been to actually finish a painting. As a teacher, every day I would begin a demonstration for each class, sometimes eight groups and new projects in a day. And I would promise myself that some day there would be actual paintings from all these starts. Sketchbooks held a vast ocean of possibilities that I would create someday in the cracks of my life somewhere. These cracks were stuffed with ideas and promises, and inspirations which kept me moving forward.
I painted walls for my children, my own daughter and my stepsons. I painted on flower pots and murals and birthday cards and designed things for people. I didn’t understand the frustrating pendulum which kept lurching me from intense drawing to free abstract work.
How could you be someone who thinks so much, has so many ideas and also this flowing mass of colour reacting to life through instinct.? I was, I am still years later. Back in the teaching years it was squished into the clothes and resources and pupil work and in the details, but it was still there. Our true essence is always there.
We are all many characters depending on which chapter we are in.
There is a wonderful freedom in not abiding by one set of rules for your work. A freedom to experiment with different media and applications.
All the work you do has your stamp on it, and the more you do, the more you you’ll see patterns and rhythms even if every piece if different.
Never apologise for the many ways your mind needs to express itself. Or the contradictory ways that joy comes out. My big friend Jim makes fairy gardens. And knits hats. He looks like a biker. His artwork is unapologetic and fun, colourful and so clever. Although he has given me permission to use his pictures, he doesn’t really show his work. The joy that one or two people get from seeing it or getting a gift from Jim is enough for him.
Yvonne teaches English after a career in teaching history, knits, sews, bakes, plants and writes a blog all with the same humble but consistent enthusiasm. Until recently I had no idea she could do half this stuff. The hidden craft skills and beautiful objects she has created is inspiring. Again, mostly for family and only on here because of arm pulling.
Both of these friends are inspiring to anyone who thinks you have to have training, or only do one thing and excel at that and then it only matters if the world sees it on Instagram. Each object they have made is pure and of itself. I think the troubIe many people have is muddying one area of skill with another and trying to cram too much into one idea.
It took me a while to realise with my art that wasn’t working; was the paintings I was trying to put both sides of myself in at once . There was the patient ordered one, who interpreted an object , albeit in a Liz way, and there was the wild one, who was quick to mark make and needed less permission. Once the pressure to perform goes, the freedom to immerse fully in the artwork is wonderful.
It was like trying to please both children with one present, but what was needed was to give each of my creative sides time to explore their path and let go as individuals. The critical voice I heard telling me to choose, from my training at Art College, my familial conditioning, those that sought to understand the work; (and in doing so, silently slightly pigeon hole it) , had to have the volume muted.
And I can tell you, the freedom to do that, although it has taken nearly fifty years is wonderful. I always loved to draw, details, to absorb what I saw and explore the essence of an object in itself. But I also could create artwork which was in itself the rhythms and textures and colours of the thing too.
We don’t need permission to express multi dimensional joy . Sometimes having a shake up in life is an opportunity to question how and why we go through the day in the way we do. I’m not going to lie, this last stretch of lockdown, in less than sunny Scotland has been by far the hardest for me. In previous months, the enormity of what stretched ahead was made easier almost by the challenge of it, and what and who needed looking after. Ever the land girls. We just buckled up our cords and braces and got on with it. Not really giving too much thought to the fuzzy future, until the daily chores were done and everyone was schooled, fed, cleaned. Medicated or entertained! We’ve all been doing that in our funny little bubbles..
It has been like sleepwalking, living through these months with a fraction of the ingredients we had, and only a few of the loved ones we care about. But because we have stoicism, hope, resilience, imagination, strength we know we can get to the other side. I have just watched the film birdbox. Sandra Bullock out on violent open river with two four year olds, escaping the end of the world, rowing for their lives, all three blindfolded . Trusting only instinct to get to the place of sanctuary where they will be free.
Those of us still waiting for injections, still waiting for permissions, for medical procedures to start, for the goal posts to remain still, rather than keep moving, are on a treadmill. The ground feels unreliable. Dare we trust it?
We just want to get off the roundabout and for the world to stop spinning random poker questions about our healthcare. I had a bad day. I don’t often get a bad day truth be told. So it was allowed. It was all Facebook’s fault. They chucked up a video post of my Stepfather who died last year. Of a happy pre-Covid Easter where we all fed lambs and chick’s and sat in the sun in their garden. I felt a surge of loss but in a strange way, a renewed gratitude too.
Very soon, life will resume something different but new. We aren’t the same people we were going in. Some of the ones we had in our world are sadly no longer here. Some people might be less able. Some are suddenly much older, some have left our lives for other reasons, some of us might want to stay where we are, or enjoy it in a way we hadn’t realised. We might not want to do things the same way. Or at least we might want to be more mindful, more selective.
What is clear is that there is no excuse not to be happy in our pursuits.
I knew I couldn’t do things the same after that day. Or if I did, I had to know why Sometimes we have to question who has made the rules we live by, why we do things. Where they come from. I felt I’d entered the upside down.
So I decide to give myself
Permission to STOP
PERUSE THE AREA Permission to bathe ridiculously
Permission to say to oneself …. Really? Do I really want to eat, read, wear, go to that?
To check my thoughts as I did things, and ask if I really wanted to for me?. To make art at the living room table for 6 hours and watch films at the same time To reverse all the meals in the day
To do things in a different order To stop thinking about everyone else just for five minutes. What happened? Nothing. Apart from a feeling like I had the best pair of comfortable big earth shoes on.
People that know you best might ask if you are ok, but probably nobody will notice.
Most to do lists are only in our heads.
Moving through the days with an awareness of why made me realise that I actually do prefer most of the things the way I was already doing them, but now I feel much less like life is on autopilot.
We made it that way because we like it and it works.
In order to get out of your own head for a bit and see if you still fit your seat. Imagine you are in a car, instead of being in the drivers seat, you are now a passenger.
You are free to watch the road, look ahead, see what’s coming, read the road signs and enjoy the view. You don’t need to be behind the wheel to be on a journey. Whatever you believe in, and it’s a personal box of magical ingredients for every soul on earth, you’re not alone. There are people on the road with you. Give them a wave as you amble along.
Being upside down is often the first step to being firmly rooted. Rip up the rules
Make art that makes your soul sing, making nobody but you happy. And get back in the driving seat of your creativity.
This blog post has taken a while to write as my hand is now cripplingly painful. The bones are fusing and I have to stop regularly. However, finally the fairies have woven their magic and surgery is extremely imminent. I am getting bones removed next week from the drawing and writing hand to make it , hopefully, less painful. So. All this, means I not only have faith in all of you, but in the universe too and in me, getting back to some new creating in a little while, in whatever way we all can!!
Have you been whispered about? Have you ever felt the cold prickles of recognition when you realise your name is being said, but not to you. Have you ever had an opinion about anyone else? Of course you have.
Mostly our thoughts and comments of this and that dissipate like the haar on the edge of the sea, while the kettle boils and the next story is brewed.
Some stories however, stick. And keep on sticking.
Becoming a little legend, which has its roots in a social group or family, cements itself further in the pub or playground and in the judgement of the gathered groups of ”Aye beens” tutting and huffing like they’re auditioning for ”Are you being served… .”
This goes on not just for a blether that day, but gathers snowball momentum over weeks, years, generations.
A while ago I told you a story about an experience we were having. It was told in a way that was honest but also showed the impact on us and the perpetrators for what they were. It had remained hidden. For along time, I had heard things like, That’s terrible, but I don’t want to get involved. Almost as if it was contagious. Being Bullied isn’t catching. I said nothing, so nobody knew.
Sometimes you just got to say no.
Shouting loudly and having a set of rules everyone has to abide by, might be what everyone is used to.
and all that anyone has ever heard.
But not everyone is made that way
When one of my guinea pigs gets a little bit scared, she doesn’t run away. She just shuts her eyes, puts her head down and snuggles in to my arm. I think she’s on to something..
Our move to our cottage was to be our sanctuary. It was our braver than brave thing. Anything after that was just details.
Just like Bonnie, we keep our head down and assume those in our immediate life must quite like us or they would not be there. A good way to live. And ensures everyone gets a lot of cuddles and regular food.
For every action, there are consequences which we must be responsible for also. Some are entirely real… whilst some…
I believe things and people are meant to try us. And teach us.
All of our stories are different . If you ask every one of your friends how they see you it will be slightly different . Trying to hold a picture of who you are is impossible. All you can do is know you do no harm.
We all show a variation to everyone, and not always intentionally. Our velvet selves stay wrapped in tissue for when we can truly enjoy wearing them again. But we are also patchwork, and denim and an old faded cotton shirt stitched over and over.
And in the meantime, in this global pause for thought, while we all lounge in pyjamas and forget how to hold a real conversation, .. we are free to imagine and just be.
In our isolation because of my illness, I have found an honesty in a way of life .
The irony of the neighbourhood pedant believing they can cut you off; is that we actually end up truly connecting with those we like more than anyone. ever !! Our time and our people are precious. Our days are filled with the wonders of modern technology and archaic methods of keeping in touch with those in our tribe, all over the world.
I have also found ; A beautiful place to live in, which; If I could walk further; offers temptation every day.. to look for birds , and wild life and painting inspiration and clouds and just pure fabulousness.
The kindest friends you could ever know, our everyday companions on social media groups, accomplishing my daily Art tasks and keeping us and each other going during these last few months. A few really super immediate neighbours and two minutes down the road an amazing network of folk we could not have got through the pandemic without. Friends who have truly been a lifeline when I am ill , or an animal needs a walk or help.
In every place you go there are a few who think it belongs only to them. There is always a chance at first that unkind people, just like a mistreated animal might be a little coaxing. Getting to know why they are unhappy and defensive is the first step to getting anywhere. Becoming defensive yourself and mimicking them is simply what a lot of angry people want you to do. It proves them right, if gives them a hobby and makes you look as bad, if not worse than them. (Because you then get upset it fuels their game) There is nothing more annoying than someone smiling, ignoring your taunts or being at ease in their world. And gives them nothing to battle you about.
I received a message about the village asking if it was a nice place. Of course it is. And there are millions of reasons to move here, visit, get a holiday home or explore the area. I have been involved in many community groups and educational information resources in the few years we have been here.
It is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
At school I was not very sure if my art was any good. I had one art teacher who thought it was fabulous but also wanted to buy all my vintage brooches from me and get a lift for him and us maverick 6fh formers to various exhibitions in London, and another art teacher who hated all of us, had a mewling cat with no fur under her desk and who scribbled on all my drawings. One day, recounting an extremely upsetting tirade from the second art teacher about colour theory, and moaning about her bitter teaching methods over my herbal tea in the 6th form common room, I looked up, at my friend’s face, sitting opposite. She had stopped replying, and was looking horrified. ”She’s behind me isn’t she?” I said ”Yep,”said Maria.
That cut short my gossip career. My tiny, horrid teacher had a look I hadn’t seen when she’d shouted at me. It was more human. It was as if my words had made her think. I might have been justified but I didn’t feel good. She looked like she was actually thinking about my feelings, but also had some her own. And she left the room. Words have power. She wasn’t nice to me, but I still felt bad !
If we know how it feels to be harmed by words, there has to be ways of protecting ourselves without sinking or losing our selves. We don’t have to become the teacher that persecuted us.
Think of a little bottle of inky poison. Longing for you to write with it. But as soon as you do it gets on your fingers and stains them, and rubs off on your shirt, you answer the phone and then you doodle on the table with your pen, it is contagious… someone reads your doodle, and takes a photo of it . Your ink is everywhere, on their hands now too and even now on a photo on instagram.
You don’t need that kind of inky nonsense ruining your life
Our colours are vibrant and unique
(Be the washable kind)
And walk away from repeating what other people say
That isn’t the same as not getting involved. if someone needs genuine help, drop everything.
A place can be tainted by its stories, its newsreels, its few who seek to cause drama for the sake of drama. Unfairly creating an ink blot on a beautiful landscape. But a place is bigger than that. And given time, and new news stories, a place can recover from the stories built in its bricks and paths and pub bar stools.
Sometimes new flowers grow that you haven’t seen before
and get a whole new heap of fans
We found this picture of our house on instagram yesterday. Our house pre Covid often got photographed by smiling camera laden tourists hanging over the fence. Seeing a different view.
Everybody has a different way of looking at the world and in order to enjoy ours fully we have to break the cycle of judging others.
I decided to take a few things out from my previous post about the incident here. The story remains the same. But we can chose not to be led by it. The place we live, like everywhere has too many pockets of kindness too, too much rich heritage and beauty and too much potential to be dulled down by decades of frustration . Because keeping those attributes of a place alive, even by reporting it, continues its legacy and keeps new vibrant people away.. and guess who would love that?!
Places grow, evolve and change. Or at least they should to stay healthy
So we must celebrate the new and wonderful as well as the old and cherished, just like any family..
And If all else fails, you can always just stay hidden in a cardboard tube.
When I grow up I’m going to be an astronaut. And a policeman and have a zoo. Yes dear. Now. Eat your shepherd’s pie.
When I grow up in going to be a ballerina with a health food shop that helps refugees and run for local councillor.
Darling that’s amazing, you’ll need to learn lots of interesting things, keep focused and believe you can do it. Because you can do anything. . As long as you don’t take advice from anyone else.. ever!!!!
Or at least keep a very open mind about what motivates us humans to fear the goals, dreams and aspirations of others.
Achieving and believing in ourselves was a pool we only dabbled in the shallow waters of as children;
The deep end. we were mostly conditioned to believe was for a vague group of other people . Braver, better, richer, cleverer, more well rounded humans who buy some trick of osmosis had known from birth that they were awesome. Many of the people I speak to in art or mental health group have a real fear of success in their work, or to see their ideas flourish. What if they fail. ? Where did that seed of doubt germinate?
Throughout this pandemic our relationships have changed, not only with each other but for many facing inwards for the first time since they could tie their own laces and run out of the school door, they are now having to see themselves a bit more up close and personal. (Including I might add the tedious rigmarole of self hair cuts and eyebrow plucking. )
Some of you might be closer to people than ever before, some might be struggling because of a lack of trust in technology. Sadly, I can guarantee that despite always writing and creating with my own mum in mind, she will always refuse to switch her computer on. She has one, but claims it doesn’t like her and no amount of help, instructions with diagrams or gentle guidance whilst on the other end of the phone line will convince her otherwise. ‘I know what you look like,’ she tells me, at precisely 9.15am every Friday on the phone. There is no changing her mindset. That is how it is and that is how it stays. I suppose I actually could have a monobrow by now and certain people on the Christmas card list would be none the wiser!!
Some conversations are never had in the way we would like or need. My mum makes me laugh now, but all of us are fundamentally the same, even if we say we don’t want or need approval or love from anyone else. From birth all children want is to be seen. Before it was crushed or squashed or side-lined by your family or ignored you were a little wriggly star. A perfect sponge and mirror to the world around you , mimicking nature and making it your own… ( I’m getting vague memories of sitting in a tree talking to fairies, and no it wasn’t last week…) You didn’t know any better than to show the world you existed in your own wonder and didn’t give a fig what anyone thought. Until you became conscious enough to name those feelings, until you understood you had a place , and kept ending up there.
To be seen isn’t the same as being praised. To be recognised in all your colours, all your YOUNESS in the eyes of your closest ones is your mirror. Their acceptance and appreciation of you as a package, and more than that, their pride in that package fuels you, and nurtures you. You are free to stop wondering if you are good enough. That is the gift of recognising others and why we must tell them
If this becomes lacking, we have to learn to give ourselves or the people we love the gift of being seen. And definitely not become the perpetrators of what we hated to feel in our worst memories..
It is an vital part of your health in every sense, but especially at the moment, to feel at ease with your essential self. To be the person you weren’t taught to be by watching your parents or siblings or the dynamics that crushed many in the classroom or office. It is far better to have a child that wont stop performing in the living room, than one too scared to tell you their fears.
For many people, this insular period in time has been a good excuse to rummage in drawers and in attics, throwing up objects and photos from our pasts that have led us to where we are now. Positive Reflections on the huge and varied lives we have lived is a good thing. We don’t often get to stop and check in like this, taking a pause and a breath
Many of you have learned ways to compete with boredom or fill your time, or learn a new skill or study for a different type of job. For some tapping back into that hobby from 1989 has proved joyous and become a much needed focus for the long winter days.
I put a post up on my face-book page asking people to tell me what they had been up to, or made, or created that they were proud of during these isolated 18 months. I didn’t really think much about the question, and expected a whole lot of replies as usual. But, it was surprising how few of the creative and talented, amazing people who inspire me every day, didn’t offer anything about themselves in return. There were barely any. One response that surprised me said they were told ‘Pride comes before a fall’ .
I lay awake thinking about pride, and about the preconception that being too happy with an accomplishment creates a vanity which in turn creates the likelihood of a well deserved topple.
And I realised that we might have an instilled sense of that rule from somewhere. About being too pleased with ourselves, in case we are seen to be showing off. And I remembered why I left home. I was painting art in my bedroom, at 18, with the neighbours children attached to me like limpets as I was babysitting. I was maybe singing. I would definitely have been friendly. A family friend of my Mum’s was round drinking tea. Afterwards I was summoned and told I was too happy and sparky, (the friend had commented, and it had made them feel ashamed of my ‘differences to everyone else’) To this day I remember the stone sinking in my chest, that feeling of horror, and appalling realisation that they cared more about a virtual strangers flyaway opinion than the creative, but really quite nice person their child was growing into.
It took me a long time to understand why, that it wasn’t really their fault. it was their own conditioning and fears of standing out that drove everything that wasn’t beige to have to be rubbed out. I just knew I had slowly begun to fade there too, so I had to go. Leaving home, travelling to New York to nanny, going off to Art school and being free was the start of adult life. Unless we challenge these misconceptions nothing changes for anyone, but it isn’t always possible to do that straight away. Facilitating positive mental health routes for others motivated me, and I always say there is no better teacher than helping others through personal experience.
Our own generation began to understand that it was alright to flourish a little bit… I still think we are carrying the weight of the ages, but we are doing a better job at not passing that on. If we look at the way our children’s generation are able to self publicise with their tick tocks and insta posts, that is. For so long we collectively carried the residue of our parents fears of standing out for being different, daring to try, daring to try, fail and try again. If we live with a negative person, someone who is scared of seeing us succeed, in case their failures and lack of insight or imagination become apparent : we will be met with a lack of interest, or worse an uninvited actual critic. But if these people are important in our lives, their opinions matter. They are the rocks we build our sense of self on. Or not. And so, without the right cheerleaders, we believe we are useless. We make half hearted creations. We prove ourselves and the world and them right. Pride does indeed come before a fall. But it isn’t your pride. It is the lost pride that should have been readily rained down at the breakfast table.
Flourishing against any kind of negativity in our lives is like swimming against the tide. I spent the last three months of my degree in my lovely big shared Edinburgh flat, getting a ridiculous amount of artwork created. Gone were the voices and critics which I was sensitive to after my upbringing. I flourished. And I sold out my show. This was my West End Craft Fair Stall in Edinburgh with set up help from the Princes Trust.
Where there should be an unspoken supportive hum in your head because you know how much you are valued, and there is nothing but the roar of self doubt, this can paralyse us . OR
It can be our motivation When we as humans find our gifts and skills, our joy and ideas we desperately want to share with the world, to not be able to share that is tragic.
Where would we be without the passion to design, draw, write, make music, cook, open conversations about new adventures and new thinking, to paint, to decorate, to get fit, to raise money, grow beautiful gardens, photograph the bounty before us and share it with the world. Almost none of these things, done by anyone I know, or by anyone I’m guessing you know either, is done solely for a prize or recognition. To Create is like breathing, like a desire, a passion for life, which has the most marvellous of outcomes of making other people happy too. We cannot be held responsible for anyone else. We can offer our stuff to the world, we can do our best. It isn’t your burden to live another person’s life for them. Making the hugest deal of your life though will impact on those around you like ripples in the ocean. All we can do to live a best life is to be mindful of how we do that, what we put in the world and why we are doing it.
A few of my friends have gone through huge journeys to find the confidence to do things like this. Perhaps it is the upside of not having support, that we learn to push ourselves that little bit more. To reach into a place where you find contentment that much easier to grasp. It literally makes me grin so much when I find out that David our friend with the dog has also been a poet and showed me his published books. His hidden tender depths are astonishing. ( Get well soon by the way ) Dear Rob, my lovely friend, who had a stroke, and who I taught art to and whom I met his lovely wife Ruth through. She and I are now great friends, she creates the most stunning quilts you’ve ever seen, and not only that, most of the things she makes she gives away.
Claire patiently making her beautiful cross stitch for her lovely family. Claire and her husband and children helped me every single week at an art class I ran in Edinburgh for children, taking boxes to the car and cleaning tables. They are so so kind.
This post was originally inspired by my bin man. He casually told me once that he was also a singer and actor. Oh and whilst driving the truck takes these lovely photographs ! In lockdown he and his team have stayed upbeat, vans breaking down and everyone’s rubbish piling up sand dunes. It is a lovely thing to know how people celebrate the gaps between work and sleep and who the real people are. Well done Douglas and team. You guys are amazing, thankyou.
I know Artists, some famous, some scribblers, writers (likewise,) nurses, teachers, holistic practitioners, mums, crafters, singers, and even nuns. And they all have skills I didn’t know about.
Today I wore Channel no 5 to Marks and Spencer’s to buy food for Mother’s Day with the monkey. I haven’t worn it in a year. Before it turns to vinegar, it was a lovely feeling to smell and feel a bit like my old self.
Doing things which evoke a particular sense of pleasure which resonates in only you cannot be explained or should be justified. The reason it is so hard to celebrate yourself is the mindset that at any given point we are doing things to please someone else, or gain approval. Saving things for best might mean you wake up one day, and your best is behind you.
Because we need someone wiser? older? more experienced ? to tell us our choices are worthwhile beautiful, meaningful in the world. If we stand up and fail what happens then?
Actually not very much…
I was asking my facebook question because I saw the quality in the things my friends do all the time, not because they are vain or pompous or climbing a ladder to success in a sharp suit smashing everyone in their way… But because they are gentle, quiet understated and mostly never tell anyone else what they get up to. Many beautiful things go unnoticed and uncelebrated. And either way the creator has the same relationship with that exercise. It makes them happy. And they are in a place, for some, finally where they are allowed to be.
. Its the things that people don’t ask for recognition for that makes my heart sing. My 106 year old nun doesn’t want it for her artwork. The care package sent by one of my group as their teacher, was not done for thanks, and took the giver completely out of their comfort zone to make it for me. That is a mountain and I am filled with gratitude.
For me I only care about the genuine kernal of appreciation I now can say I have for myself, my journey and my daughter. Some things work out, some don’t, but to live a life which feels instinctive and has hope, is way better than living by the rules of another. Any one of your creations, your meals, your walks, your photos of dogs, your haiku poems, your folded drawer of t shirts. You made something that wasn’t there before. And that is a tiny bit marvellous Perhaps tomorrow you can study to be an astronaut
You all have unique skills and the creative strength to keep going. The hidden gems you planted a long time ago in a pocket somewhere, may well be fully grown sparkly trees by now. What has struck me recently, is how my intelligent, wonderful, creative students, friends, and those people I have continued to admire over the years have all maintained an aspect of learning, and have an open mind to other’s ideas. You are like collages of your years in the world. Evolving and growing in wisdom, shedding off out-grown ideas like skins and staying open minded, unafraid to travel forward
. It might sound cliche but I feel proud of all these amazing people educating, writing, creating, still learning skills, making the most of this time with their children and animals. Your resources are limited, but your wills are stronger than ever to finish what you started.
Every week amazing people do ordinary things which keep other people going, making sure we are all ok and for this I am grateful to be part of so many positive connections.
This is Jim. Jim is the star of our zoom every week with his technical green screen wizardry . He has taken huge steps , not least trusting and using a phone, let alone all this newfangled cleverness. We are in stitches and nobody looking in would guess your mammoth journey. Thankyou so much for keeping us all entertained. And to all my group, you inspire me and one another to remember we are all a puzzle piece in a bigger jigsaw. You just need to find the right box.
And this is Isabel Robb, working hard for a Brain Tumour charity by pushing herself with her ten thousand steps a day. This is Amazing. Isabel brings up her son with additional needs as well . She is a kind and selfless wee diamond. 🙂 Go Isabel xx
Both of these women I know, won’t mind me telling you that their journeys began in a far less happy and confident place: due to life’s unpredictable circumstances. It has been with their sheer spirit, courage and humility that they have worked a day, a step and a goal at a time to achieve these aims and recreate new lives for their families. All at Cedar are proud of the entire group of Women who have beaten their fears to get where they are. .
And not trying to climb the mountain on day one
Sometimes, we are prevented from reaching our potential in life because those around us think they have our best interests at heart. Sometimes the reasons are much more complex. But if you start to unpick the response you might get; when you, for example, announce your wonderful new solo travel plans, or business idea, or new career as an opera singer.. it can be so overwhelmingly negative that you rip up the dream before it has even begun.
And that suits everyone just fine. It proves they were right. That they know you better than you know yourself…..
Except of course they don’t..
Often people closest to you, will instil their fears of you doing something wild, crazy, free, liberating, enjoyable, wonderful, or just different…. which mimic your own self sabotage demon sitting on your shoulder already….and this will line up quite nicely with you NOT actually being able to do it in the first place, and at the first sign of defeat you give yourself permission to give up. PROVING ALL OF YOU RIGHT. And the cruellest irony is that this is usually nothing to do with your idea or plans or dabble into new territory. These emotional responses pushing you back down where you ‘belong’ are the fears of your friends, or family, often going back generations. Add in jealousy of not achieving that same kind of thing themselves, not getting to stand in your shoes, and it is a heady mix of sabotage blended to look like care. It is not cruel to be kind. It is probably just cruel.
Anyone truly in your camp will listen to all your ideas and be able to separate their feelings impartially. Give advice but still say go for it.
In order to achieve anything at all in life, no matter how trivial or overwhelmingly impossible it might seem to anyone else First we need to know
1 We actually deserve to be happy and to do this thing we crave to do
2 Today is as good a day as any to start. Tomorrow is an excuse. Get a notebook and write down your idea.
3 Write down all the reasons for doing this thing and what you will feel
4 Write down all the reasons why not to do it , and what others will feel
5 Be grateful for what you have/ who you are already. This thing will add to your life. You are already you. That’s why you can do it.
6 Some days in the creation of a thing are like rainy weather. Shut the curtains, snooze and do it later.
7 Keep the big end result in your mind, but be flexible with this. A perfect alternative might pop up when you least expect it.
8 Make physical plans, maps, picture collages of your idea. Make lists . The more focused you are the better.
9 Do something every day towards your goal. I often multitask two blogs at once, or paint and listen to an audio for something I am studying. Squeeze things into the corners of your day. My hours are limited with fatigue, so my sympathies go out to you if you are a reader with a chronic condition. However. You still exist. You can get to your goal. Just do it from the sofa, or your duvet.
10 Don’t procrastinate. You aren’t a child. Nobody will tell you off if you don’t start this venture off, You shouldn’t have to force yourself, although obviously we all have good and bad days. You are accountable only to you.
11 This will be perfect. But your version of perfect, nobody else’s perfect. Half a mountain is better than no mountain at all.
12 Expect yourself to be happy, achieve this goal, be humble and share your experience.
13 If distractions are an issue of your own making, change the goal, as this might not be what you clearly desire. But if distractions are your children or animals- get a shed.
14 Be consistent every day. Timetable your tasks and very quickly you will see results that add up to something tangible. Read in the bath, listen to audio, get up a bit earlier, work with the rhythms of those around you and yourself. I am writing this at half past five am. By teatime, my lupus addled brain is foggy and needs to draw instead.
Where there’s a will there’s a way. And .. In the words of my daughter;
”there enough people already being average….
To aim your highest you might have to wobble a bit first…
and you are better to be a sheep dog than a sheep….’‘
Perfectly said Leah. Didn’t need the rest of the blog!……xxxxx
Good Luck with your next venture.. do let us know how you get on !
This week has made me realise just how fast the Roller-coaster between feeling pure joy and the physical paralysis sadness can wreak in this wonderland we call lockdown. It is amazing. One minute everything is so boringly normal you could scream stepping into your Monday pants, and then all of a sudden there you are staring into the eyes of yet another crazy person with too much time on their hands and not enough energy directed at their own underwear drawer.
I might be the most tolerant person you’ll ever meet, so please don’t think I’ve had a bump on the head. But this Tiger mum who keeps her 7 cubs safe… ( only one human one) unknowingly woke up in the Jeremy Kyle show. The weather was warm with a promise of Spring sunshine. Along came a tornado.
Whilst in my favourite pyjamas, secretly desperately chuffed with myself for changing my broadband and setting up my new tv package, I was basking in the happiness that can only be found in a remote control and Netflix and twiddling with business computery things in front of the fire, various animals snoozing next to me, child happily playing for once outside with her best friend . Bliss.
The air is starting to ease it’s winter tensions, Spring smells had begun to tease us in the morning, just slightly too cool to actually drink tea outside, but almost. And as I uploaded photos, this week , it felt lovely, both of us in the middle of creating new projects, some things nobody knows about yet, some things are revisited, some are ongoing and some are bearing fruit ; and like the garden and the clothing possibilities in the morning’s choices, we are starting to unfurl towards Spring..
There was a hammering on the door and an angry woman’s face. In mine.
The people attempting to cause problems for others in the world aren’t really what this art and positivity site was supposed to be about. But that is unfortunately a mirror for life’s weird and wonderful journey; we do not get to chose everything in it. Sometimes the big kid stomps on your sandcastle. And it is whether you let the big kid stop you ever building another one again, that counts.
. When we moved to an idyllic little village we had visions of an idyllic little village, leaving the city outskirts for the sanctuary of a new start, we created a beautiful new home by the sea, with all the freedom a child could need . In the short few years we have lived here, both of us have now been subjected to behaviours by adults last seen in the playground .
Whilst there have been reports filed, this is apparently quite a frequent occurrence to anyone not born in a small village. And the Police and other agencies have been overwhelmed with a stack of historical paperwork on these small town politics, chasing the blue skies into grey storm clouds… Sounds a little bit to familiar to me.
Making physical and verbal threats to other humans is clearly unacceptable.. Which was what the authorities also thought. Especially when unprovoked and repeated.
There are many reasons, as we’ve discussed before, why people believe their feelings are more important or true than others. And therefore they feel they can dominate people because of this.
And the smaller and smaller a place you go, the worse this gets. Ironically, it is usually the most beautiful of places too. Having lived most of my adult life in Edinburgh where you could be any version of yourself at any time, nobody would notice. Walking home dressed in face paint from a performance, or covered in paint one day and dressed in a suit the next. The melting pot of human diversity in most places is what makes it healthy, interesting, fun and normal.
I don’t know how it feels to wake up and think anyone else’s business is mine, apart from those I love
Despite having the same physical symptoms every day, keeping positive and creative keeps chronic conditions more bearable. Having layers of meaning and joy with the little little things we do, helps with all our states of mind. We eat so we don’t get inflammation, we breathe better, we maintain simple clarity for our family and health, we take pleasure in the ways of life that are colourful and joyful, especially when those things connect with other like minded people.
So….. When that subtle but vital cloak of protection is constantly snatched away by jealousy or ignorance it is not only another thing to maintain, but starts to become a very scratchy garment to wear instead. Thankfully we have an amazing network of friends and support out with the immediacy of certain goings on. But I am compelled to write about this because I know from your letters and responses that our experiences are not singular. If one of you feels something, somewhere we all do, or know someone who does. And hopefully it can help a little to discuss and compare .
Suddenly being scared, or anxious and confused because of something, someone out of your control, can physically overwhelm all your senses and your body’s defences.
It is hard enough to deal with if you have the strength to go and kick box a giant padded dummy, but if your immunity is medically low, your body literally starts to attack itself. Go figure. It joins in.
The world is supposed to be a magical and kindly place. We should be able to trust all the creatures in the forest. There should be kindly folk at hand on our adventures and little birds singing on our shoulder.
Just like in the story books
Thankfully, as I had both cctv, and my daughter was cavorting about with her best friend in a field making Tick Tick videos, both events were recorded. What I can’t get out of my head, is my daughter’s reaction after she had politely answered the screaming woman, and after the car sped off. That fear will haunt me, hopefully far longer than it will her.
We all recognise this feeling. Bullies from the snotty lunch money thieving playground ones to the ones we accidentally become involved with in innocence, trusting their stories of past heroics and future bounty, or the sudden and unexpected lashing out of a probably sad, angry human whose path your shadow fell onto.
Their fallout is the same, the negative, horrid, damaging, heavy, words, actions, threats, imminent behaviour strikes fear which goes way beyond the action of simply getting the stuff out of their heads into the world. These arrows land on the victim like physical blows and can change their entire outlook.
If we let them. And if our invisible armour isn’t adjusted.
I couldn’t stop crying. My face hurt from it. But somewhere I knew it was temporary. I ran out of words a little bit and couldn’t move. My body was changed. The life force we need to choose our clothes, make a meal, be centered, that energy that usually flows was frozen. I had to say to a few people, for a few days, give me a minute. Those days were stolen .
When we get attacked, we get invaded. Sometimes it is easy to brush off, sometimes though, especially if it has happened over and over, it can be one time too many. Here was a numbness and a seemingly irrational powerlessness.
There was too many associations with other situations which were similar. But I knew this. I could feel it like a cold hand pushing me back into a dark forest of feelings I just didn’t want to go into…… I witnessed myself experiencing this mad event through the eyes of my future self and knew letting this negativity win wasn’t an option.
Observing my earthly body thus, it occurred to me that we must go through a series of bodily trials when we are shocked, appalled, worried and exhausted. Physically stunned, we lose our hunger for food, or the usual routines, but our senses are acutely aware of our loved ones in our peripheral vision.
Your head gets crammed with cotton wool, your body wants to do is turn inside itself. Your eyes are leaking all by themselves and start to be filled with sand, which you keep trying to hide in front of your children. Gone is the tiny reserve of energy you stored up for that evening’s or day’s essential plans like cooking or bathing or folding laundry . Your already exhausted immune wrecked body is on hyperdrive looking for the enemy but attacking only you. When you are ill and you are bullied, you are being slowly rubbed out from the inside and it takes a will of iron to stand in the eye of the storm, preserving precious energy.
But of course you must. Every day, everywhere, situations are occurring where terrible things happen to good people day after day. This in the big scheme of things was horrible for us, but was dealt with and we are lucky to have the ability to make future choices. A pandemic, already challenging the world’s mental health, already forcing the isolated into isolation is why all differences should be celebrated not picked on. If we as humans are watched, it should be with loving eyes , because your self is so marvellous. This is no time for not being able to shine.
After so much life on hold, we can’t hide our selves too.
We are equipped with ways to cope with sudden shock, if we hear our higher kinder self. As much as we want to please the concerned friends trying their best to help. What we all need sometimes is a different thing. Your true friends can and will want to learn to understand this, just as you do. All we can do is keep being open. Last night I received a lovely phone call from a 90 year old nun . I taught her and several of her friends in a care home. She and I haven’t spoken in three years but have sent letters. It was like we were on the phone yesterday. One of the residents, another Elizabeth Walker, who was dear to Leah and I , died yesterday. Monika gently talked about how she had sat with her and it had been very peaceful.
Life is short, and sometimes tricky but there is always a light on. There are so many good people it is almost ridiculous. There are still so many reasons to brush yourself down and keep going. There are so many people in our lives even if we don’t see them for the longest time.
Forcing my legs into the cold, and leaving the Grinch in bed, the bear and I went to the beach today at 7.15. Am. He loved it. Nobody to scold him for running up to them and mimicking a small horse.
He galloped about, I watched the sky, bigger than all of us. We watched the swimmers, braver than all of us. I managed just enough steps to feel a bit proud. Next time I’ll get to the water. He waited nicely at the car and we listened to story tapes on the way to do the shopping in Aldi. I shopped in peace, and was met like a long lost friend because we hadn’t done our shopping in person there for a month. ( having done it online when I hadn’t felt well). Next time they said the staff would take it in turns to drop off my shopping.
We even managed to witness God on the A1, n a miraculous burst of light on the sea. And stopping on the layby wasn’t accompanied by ‘ God mum, you’re soooooo embarrassing’
Life can and always does make progress and another day passes without going backwards. The line between easy and hard is often paper thin, and a moment of someone else’s madness can be enough to create an effect like the blurry button on your camera phone.. In these times, most people are still kind, and in the widest world billions truly are incredible. Sometimes it is the thought of the cold that is the hardest challenge . But as these guys are there every day, my guess it is must get warmer once you brave that first step…
Everyone loves a little healthy kingdom ruling once in a while though… just ask a dog. The difference is they cover you in big wet kisses afterwards.
Once out of the house, the village, The Grinch was happy to have peace, bear was happy to have space and it felt good having challenged myself to do these things alone.
Today our chicken got out of her hutch. A small victory swiftly regretted after a brief flap around the trampoline when a giant pair of bear like jaws came hurtling down on her wing… Whether it was surprise at landing a catch or his practice at being so gentle with the guinea pigs every night; they just stopped and stared at one another in shock . Holding one in each hand like toddlers in a food fight, the Beast had to be gotten out of the way temporarily in order to coax Sugar back.
Safely back in the kitchen but trying to get out of the cat flap, bear watched as Sugar frolicked for a while with me in tow. Wondering how I would convince my lower body half to get all the way down to the ground to catch her, I rang Dr Doolittle on her mobile. Knowing full well that it was highly unlikely she would tear herself away from making her latest mini movie..
And then I stood still..
Slowed my heart rate and considered all eventualities briefly before leaving fate to step in
And just like that, Sugar wandered into the cage, as if nothing had happened.
In our time there have been a series of challenges which have bordered on unbelievable. But they have only underlined the sanctity of home, of stillness and of loyalty to those people in your life who never judge, never comment, never complain; just allow you to be you.
These recent experiences may be the beginning of a new chapter for us. Who knows. As my friend Yvonne, who lives in Spain and who I miss dearly says’ Going beyond our shores is so much healthier for understanding other people.’ Certainly, staying in one place and growing more judgemental and bitter is not a life choice, regardless of the petrol it saves.
All through this week I have been listening to the audio of the Wintering by Katherine May. My friend Nicola reminded me of the existence of Audible and recommended this book . It has been an absolute pleasure to be immersed in the beautiful visuals of May’s words , sensitively conjuring up how necessary and elemental our own seasons must be. Through chopping carrots and kale in the mornings to folding towels or finishing drawings, hearing her exploration of why and how we winter makes us see how there is a vital need to stop and refuel, especially when we find ourselves on empty , to gather in, restock, replenish, recharge, re new . It has come to be my new favourite book on so many levels.
Wintering isn’t a four month period. wintering is stepping back and knowing that you must preserve your energy, skills, sense of self and purpose, gather your fuel, gather those you love, gather your breath. We are all in a kind of winter at the moment. losing some of the choices we normally use to gather momentum to propel to the next season. Without outside reminders in big ways, explosive adverts for chocolate eggs and holidays, get aways and rewards for surviving another cold spell, we must be our own advocate, our own reward, our own chicken soup. ( Sorry Sugar)
There is a big big world out there, full of all of you inspirational people . Perhaps we land in a place for a while so that we can winter and create without distraction. And then really find our words.
Sometimes we must stand still and save precious energy whilst we figure out what the big dog will do next. Sometimes we get to gather in all the tools that only we know we need, and sometimes when the time is right, we can walk calmly back into our house that we chose, because we know we chose it, and it no longer feels like a prison. And we will all know that there will not be monsters or viruses or big black creatures at the door.
Personally our view will always be beautiful. We will keep building our sandcastle and put the most beautiful shells we can find on it. And if it gets washed away, kicked over, well do it all again tomorrow; because that is half the fun.
I have just wrestled a feather bower out of my puppy’s jaw.
This sums up life at the moment. Anything might happen. And usually does. As the days open and close in perpetual motion and seem to be on an endless loop, what we can choose to see as groundhog day, still contains the unexpected, bizarre, sharp and shocking moments as flashes of life affirming mini dramas unravel one by one. The mundane doesn’t stand a chance when our days are spent in a daily land-girl battle, not just against keeping the indoor life flowing, but keeping well, keeping everyone alive and keeping us all from going ever so slightly insane…
In my life as a singe parent, a Teacher, an Artist and especially in current circumstances. I have an understanding, as I’m certain you do, of the value of routine in our home, week, and in each day. It’s what we all need to feel safe and sustained. Without an internal clock, a pencilled in timetable, no matter how flexible, we lose track a bit, lose purpose and even stop eating or sleeping properly. Nurturing everyone, even your pets, needs a tiny bit of stage direction. And a lot of appreciation for the unexpected quiet bits twixt the chaos.
This routine will be hugely different for you, your neighbour, your partner, your friends. Its personal. But stick to the bits that are working at the moment. Instead of letting frustration creep in, keep forcing the legs out of the duvet at the same (ish) time, go with the flow of however this is for you. It won’t be for ever. But the skills you find to cope, they will last you a life time
A day in the life here can be turned on its head very quickly. One or more of this lot can sustain an injury, have a tantrum, break something, cover the floor in mud, escape or need sustenance So my daily life is an extremely loose plan. My favourite and quietest time in the morning, is early. Everybody is either asleep or sleepy, including most of the world. Working on Painting or writing then, my head feels calm without the family zoo soundtrack in the background. The flipside to this at the moment with chronic fatigue is really early nights . But again, for now, this is ok. And gets the job done.
The morning begins with the all important cup of tea and half hr of TV. I like to draw or yank pictures from magazines, or write notes for an idea. This time is so precious, it gets super-multitasked! I usually end up with a dog on my sketchbook. Currently, there is a cat in my armpit. This lovely morsel of daytime quickly starts to need fuel so I graduate to very strong black coffee, without which, no limb would unfurl at all, and I would still be on the sofa at teatime.
There is then a lot of chopping vegetables for Guinea pigs, plus more for our dinner, whilst simultaneously refereeing excitable in-house paw to paw combat.. collecting up random strewn objects, changing everyone’s bedding, tidying up, and organising the creature from the black lagoon…I may have a bath which doubles as my ten page a day of reading time- any subject I am currently looking at. If it isn’t a high pain day, I will accompany the morning walk or try to stretch within pain limits.
Finding ways of coping, with day to day health symptoms has become tough for everyone, with most routine care being cancelled or postponed. For those suffering with auto immune conditions, many are simply fending for themselves as not all are categorized as worthy of priority. But ask anyone with arthritis, m.e, fybromyalgia, endometriosis.. what having flu would do, on top of their already fatigue blasted system and they will agree it would make sense to include them, especially if they are also a parent.
The general attitude of many gp’s and consultants over the last five years has been to override what I knew and trusted about my body’s decline and symptoms, and to assume it must be in part negligence, an attitude of negativity and focusing on the pain itself or having nothing better to think about. This is quite hilarious, but also quite frightening. Frustratingly, it was looking like I had finally got somewhere, pre lockdown, after years of separate operations and worsening joints and mobility, it now appears that it should have been diagnosed as Lupus. Much like the p.d.a. diagnosis for children, the years of discomfort and fallout could and should have been seen. Standing in the way is the trust by our healthcare system that many of us DO connect the dots ourselves and know that we are not all suffering from a collective mania.
I know many people now struggling to get treatment. So it is imperative to be doing as much as you can for your own self care, investigate your condition and live well between appointments. If I have learnt anything is to be clear with your concerns, ask for what you need and keep on top of your pain with medication. Stay warm, wear pain patches, stretch, take vitamins and trust your own pace. Help is still there if you ask,
Next is emails, sorting the latest pictures to upload onto various pages or writing blog posts. Drawing to share with groups or for a new project, such as a commission. I listening to audio c.d.s from the library van usually, with one finger hovering on the pause button anticipating a disruption to the story every 29 seconds !! If this sounds idyllic, believe me, a run of peace to finish anything is rare . Once the Bear starts to wake up, I Manoeuvre a pre teen out of a pile of bed covered in old crisp packets, squidgy toys, and the folded washing that was supposed to be hung up yesterday; (to much gurning and grumping), the sun rises and the day’s particular subtleties begin. It is like getting on a bus ride on an American Highway with no toilet stops.
Medicine and pain patches keep the inflammation down somewhat, but winter isn’t easy for chronic pain conditions. Being cold, especially damp cold makes things worse. There is very little one can do about the exhaustion. My philosophy is to ensure most of what I eat and drink is healthy, adhering to what I have learned about my system. Which makes room for a square of salted dark chocolate, a dollop of mayo, a bagel once a week or a glass of vodka. Diets fail because in absence the mind creates a vacuum . Which naturally fuels desire. keep it topped up just enough to feel you’re still alive and you can concentrate on living. l.
Jobs get done at Skye Blue house between hauling the child and pup into fresh air, and I survey the damage created in a short but fraught hour !! I then try to get any Artwork done in the morning when Bear has a post walk nap and Leah is either at school or now at home school..
By the afternoon, the limbs and eyes are painful, and my energy nose dives, so having things prepped like wood for the fire, having tea ready, and chores done is a useful routine.
These pictures show the little shed gallery I had intended as a presentation space as well as where my work was stored initially in lockdown. As more and more things have had to come back from galleries and shops, as will be the case for so many artists, I have taken the decision to store some of it, until such times as it can be seen together. However, a huge selection of prints and smaller, post friendly new artwork is available and I will be bringing you information about that soon .There is no stable source of sale flow for artists that feels safe. Other than online. And separate avenues are blossoming in an organic way which is lovely. I look forward to showing you a new website for these in the near future.
Having a bouncing pup and a child off school makes it quite tricky to achieve the quantity of Artwork which had begun when I became a full time Artist. ! It has been a transition time for us all. And that’s OK. . A good friend of ours Phil, a print maker told me once that good things grow in the gaps between times. And that always struck me as true. Often more is achieved drawing in a sketchbook than sitting in front of an empty sheet of paper for hours. And there is a lot to be said for the self discipline of accomplishing a small task a day towards each of your dreams- one drawing, or one box of sorting things out, or one page of writing, or one shelf in the shed. Sometimes any more is too hard. But chip away and your acorns do grow.
Artwork is done if possible, poems written in the bath, or at the sink, and in between the laundry is done, the shopping ordered, the post posted. Every day the whatsapp groups begun in March are chatted to, drawings are shared, and connections maintained. A couple of times a week we check on neighbours and add things to our shopping for them if needed.
If we’ve had to get food shopping, we go at 7.30 in the morning, and it is always a struggle for me. The tiny trolley overflowing as the large ones are too low for me to reach down into. Juggling, A toppling trolley, usually a random huge thing on top and on crutches. My hands are extremely painful at the moment, so packing things twice is also way too hard. However, the staff in Berwick Aldi often open a checkout so I can unload slowly before someone goes onto the till. Which as we all know, with Aldi express checkout skills, makes a massive difference. I want to thank the Aldi staff in Berwick for always being so kind to us, and making us want to recommend them.
Our other favourite places to shop in Berwick are for the zoo.
Direct Pets and pets at home in Berwick, both of whom have made us and Bear so welcome. So much so that on one very memorable occasion when I opened the car, bear clambered onto my head, jumped off, ran into the shop on his own, springing the automatic doors open. Luckily they knew him and gave him the biscuit he was after. (Yes, I was ready next time.)
They took this picture of him for their facebook page, choosing his new bed. Look at this contrasting post from the Pets at home page in August…
Here at Pets At Home Berwick, you know we love a puppy!This is 8 week old Bear having his first trip to pick his bed and some toys! He is a Poodle, Lurcher, Collie and Deerhound cross, and how beautiful is he
We are indebted to the lovely people everywhere that are kind, see a need and just help. Those opposite types are thankfully rare. And like certain public figures eventually their devious traits become obvious.
So, after wresting my slippers from bear’s mouth, cleaning the fire out, resting, feeding everybody again, and shoving child and animals into any available sunshine or box, artwork, writing, laundry and cleaning gets done in no particular order, until pit stop for lunch.
Afternoons are either hibernating, or occasionally out for a little vitamin D. One of the best places to take the Bear is our beach. On this particular day it had been lousy weather so we had it to ourselves, and then this gorgeous light washed the picture in psychedelic colour. We are holding on to these moments between the news bulletins, the sunshine between the storm clouds, even for a few minutes between naps…
Watching old home movies, finding colour and patience and snippets of funny kept us entertained over the festive season, and although I am not keen on too much technology for kids, it keeps us connected, and able too laugh with those we care about. As long as there is still a fire, boards games and a little conversation!
We move through the treacly days with as much energy as we can find and source little pockets of joy in between the have-tos and must -we- reallys…
We can’t do much, but we can make the most of what we have right now, we keep teaching our groups in this annoying technical format until we can make proper hand prints and sandwiches and hear the soft rumbling of pencils on paper and Radio Paradise in the background. And we yearn for the day when we are wrapped in so many bear hugs by friends we forget to draw at all.
The universe is certainly dealing a tough hand , reminding us we don’t always hold all the cards. Much as we like to think we do as a species. I know that my wisest and dearest friends all hold the common hope that we might just hold onto a few of the better aspects of having life as we know it being put on hold. There is still choices in each minute by minute we live through, and we have the strength of spirit we need to stay ok if we hold on .
Thankyou for sharing our day and sending you whatever superpower you most need to get through.
At this time of year we usually start gathering up memories of all the adventures we’ve had, the travels we have been on and the places we have explored. Scrolling through our face book feeds , we get used to being taken from country to country and restaurant to restaurant.
This year we were more likely to have been transported into the living rooms and opinions of celebrities, old box sets and adverts for things which we might get back to, dreams to purchase or get a buzz from .. one day… one day …… Our t.v and actual diets have had to adapt, due to the limitations of the pandemic.
My art group and plenty of organisations supporting those with mental health issues or, indeed, having mobility problems themselves; are pretty used to this need for acceptance and flow. In our conversations on the phone or during online get togethers every week for this entire year : although there have been a myriad of concerns, feeling isolated, having to be patient, waiting longer for someone to help because the usual support network isn’t there…. the skills gained from long term health conditions have primed many people for further isolation with a spirit of making do.
Throughout the year, numerous artworks have been achieved by you, from everyday drawings in lockdown which you used as inspiration and which generated a wonderful community group, to the Artist’s collaboration with my poet friend Ruth which rippled out across several regions and included both written and painted work. Even a little science.
Please visit our site SeaSparkle. Org to see all the artwork achieved by Artists, friends, clients, and groups this year.
In a year which created bubbles out of our houses and complicated rules for how to tango around a friend in the street with a mask on, one constant was our furry friends for company and good hugs. We lost two of the best you could ever hope to love , and still miss Skye and Pumpkin dearly. (see earlier posts) But these three cheeky faces have been a distraction and very welcome company, especially during these months stranded with no family on a clifftop!
We had a recent scare with Bear having a serious injury on Sunday , and cutting an artery in his foot. He needed emergency surgery on a Sunday no less.. An expensive fright. It has been incredible to receive all your support and we are very grateful.
He has made a good recovery and is milking the cuddles for all they are worth. Max and Molly the cats, and Sugar the chicken have accepted the newbies, and the evening love-ins on the sofa are a welcome end to the day, especially after yet another teenage bedroom battle.. and once I figure out how to dog proof my flower beds from the Bear, and my builder finishes the decking, (only ten months Dave) !!!! life and the garden will resume some kind of normal, in an un-normal time.
Scrolling through the ipad, we read another post on self improvement..
It makes us think of so many people in charities, groups, churches, food banks, community groups and neighbourhoods, working silently with no recognition or gold stars, no clapping or extra pay. Or even pay at all. The thing is, that people are actually doing incredible things everywhere and have either no time or no inclination to tell the world about it.. Thankyou for the kindnesses we have received throughout the year and for the people who have swept into our lives just as we’ve needed help most.
It is the loveliest feeling in the world when children start mimicking the positive things that adults do, and can still feel empathy when they have been let down. In a world that can seem hard to understand, lets hope they come through this being a little more patient and kind to their neighbours. They will certainly have gained endurance skills we can only marvel at, in this adapted world.
The two of us have had a busy few weeks, making art for the local notice boards, putting together cushions from scraps sewn by a friend with dementia, helping a friend to still have Christmas when her festive things were in boxes from a house move, and surprising her with a secret tree, food and decoration delivery, and keeping up community art zooms and daily whatsapp chats. recording an online zoom nativity, and finishing off small bits of art for friends. If a few small acts of kindness became second nature even between teenage meltdowns, (one of which left a crack in the back door) something is going in!! ..
This year has seen a deterioration in my personal bone health with less hospital and go access than ever. It has now taken two years to get treatment. I’ll spare you the details but instead, focus on the lockdown art and what we’ve made from it. It makes me proud to show you the outcome of those months, time spent every day super early drawing so that other people could later join in too. Banking a range of pictures and paintings which have now become prints and cards.
It has not been an easy year. Several times our only plans have been cancelled. We were meant to travel three times abroad and couldn’t, have guests to stay, and couldn’t, go away for birthdays and couldn’t. As a young carer the events and groups were cancelled for her and replaced with a noisy but fun sounding trumpet lesson! We know and trust change is coming. The faith in ourselves and our stamina, our plans and what comes next.. have kept us warm and moving forward for many months. I feel certain you like us have felt a rainbow of emotions this year. Patience has been hard to come by when the timescale is a moving target.
We are all learning how resourceful we are and finding joy in the details of life
Making and appreciating new friends has been a great benefit of this year. Sadly not every friendship we have will go the distance especially in a changing world as we evolve and grow into ourselves. And actually that is healthy. If being around a person in particular makes you feel flustered, sad, anxious, or scared; Take steps to remove yourself from that relationship. Even a regular friendship can lose its way sometimes, leaving the door open for new conversations. Making space will always create opportunity.
We were extremely fortunate to meet a great group of women in the Cedar programme this Autumn. Our lives can always squeeze in a supportive circle of folk who truly get what you experienced. I have learnt that by being open, we enable this process in others and this gift can come when someone least expects, but really needs it. Please do reach out and speak to someone if you or they are struggling.
We all live our lives in our little houses. our little universe… but those friends that you meet along the way, that you bond with; especially now, hold on to them. They showed up .
In the next year, we will pursue plans to extend sea sparkle art and wellbeing classes whether that continues to be online or together.
and who knows what else might be up our sleeves
As we move into the next chunk of time anticipating or dreading Christmas, depending on our health, tier, situation, or circumstance we can reflect on one or two fundamentals….
Nobody ever got richer or cleverer sending mass messages to everyone on their friends list that need ten replies before sundown. Choose your scrolling wisely.
Charity shops can no longer shift your stuff, so there is no point clearing out everything you own because a minimalist Japanese lady tells you to. Although, there is sense in a calm space.
You already know what food makes you sick so stop eating it and wasting time going to appointments relearning the obvious. There are no g.p.s so use them wisely. Your stomach does not know its Christmas.
Not everybody will approve of your taste, style, decisions or way of life. So do stop trying to please them all. This pandemic gives us a global and a personal amnesty on all previous self sabotage. Check into a tribal bubble that has your back.
Your glove will find you. Your calling will come. The tiny beautiful things you do today will move mountains tomorrow
Eat slowly, light nice candles, hug something, read all the things you always meant to, remember most things we need don’t cost much , see the top half of the glass, breathe slowly , write or share your thoughts, and remember to laugh. Wishing you the festive season you want and need , whatever that looks like. Thank-you for being a support for Lizatthebeachhut and Seasparkle this strangely shaped year.
The light around here has been incredible recently.
As I Flip through Facebook posts recently, I have loved to see the many walks my friends take and the things they see along the way, things that my legs don’t get to. Some of these things I saw before my body stopped playing, some I may get to one day if I win the lottery, and some of them I will never see. All of the above are ok with me.
We can travel the world to see the most glorious of sites. We can trek up mountains to see a new perspective we yearn for. Potential and adventure is wonderful. But if limitations are set, it doesn’t mean that life has to be less stimulating.
If circumstances change the rules, as they have for everybody at the moment, our fun radar has to look closer for things to appreciate. And for inspiration.
I got asked by a woman over the phone, filling in a medical form how many buses I could walk. ( length of) without stopping, and with sticks .. If you’ve never tried answering that one give it a go. I can walk 2 buses.
But, walk two buses, take a photo or two and then walk a couple more. You can get somewhere, or to your car, and then a little further… And then moments as incredible as any rare truffle are waiting. If your deely boppers are on.
And if that has to suffice until surgery or vaccinations happen it is a start.
The new normal looks different for everyone!
For some the routine has stayed reassuringly familiar ……..
And others of the more active variety have been growing like weeds…
And art has been created in the spaces created like little yawns in the day… where children or animals are sleeping, eating or otherwise occupied .
Next year will be a big birthday for me, and although I could probably still get asked for i.d without make up, due to being partly of the faery variety 😉 It will mean that, including teaching in America at 20, I will have been teaching art for 30 years. It has been a rollercoaster, not least for health reasons. But always the best part, the only part that mattered was giving something to kids that they did not have before.
My first teaching job was in a tough school. some of the kids (and staff) were hard work, and I was going to work full time whilst looking after two young stepsons and a big house. I was keen and sparkly, but at the time, was being knocked in more ways than one, both at home and at work.
Now I think that girl was amazing. Then, I taught my socks off in a blur. I didn’t know what the kids saw. But I knew I gave them everything because I always will. And I loved their inspiration as much as creating with them. Eventually the politics of that post got too much. So I moved schools. Before arthritis got the better of me and I taught in high school for 18 years.
Out of the blue last week, I received a message on facebook from a great big bearded man, who I didn’t recognise. The picture showed him on his wedding day. He just wanted me to know, he said, that I had been an amazing teacher. That he still remembered what I taught him 20 years ago, and that he still tells his niece about being taught art by me. How incredible. This was not something this man needed to do, or gained anything by doing. But I did. And how lovely to gift those words to someone years after they knew you. In a time where our identities are in question because we can’t be fully ourselves, always speak kind words when you think them.
Thankyou to the wonderful Mickey. Keep doing those little things, especially in your own home. The universe and your wife will thank you! I know I do.,
This poem was written for all of you who take the time to read this, for your heart and for your own self care.
In amongst the day to day routine keep an eye out for flashes of colour, a chances to reflect on the details when the bigger picture get too overwhelming. Savour every colour. They are only for you.
Children and seasons will change, so will this situation. For a long time my mantra has been to keep going. Clichéd maybe, but sometimes it is all you can do to put one foot in front of another.
Or one bus
Something today matters for a reason you don’t even know yet.
I am so proud of my groups, friends and some of the community helping one another to stay positive. To see artwork, share your Ideas or experiences with us.. go to facebook, liz at the beach hut and sea sparkle.