Thursday, November 20, 2014

A big sketchbook for carrying memories (or just cutting and sticking) ...

A little visual inspiration today (hopefully) from a windy day in New York. 

Over the years of many homes and many houses and carrying my life from one continent to another, I have always gathered visual inspiration and ideas in little pieces of paper that I could carry with me ... postcards and scraps of wrapping paper, pages torn from magazines, scribbles on napkins, business cards and flyers from exhibitions. They've piled up over the years in boxes and bags, moving with me from place to place. Now that we're in our house where roots are hopefully being put down, i thought it was time to put all of them into one huge sketchbook where i could page through when i felt like a little visual inspiration. Some are ideas for paintings, some capture a mood I love ... some are just beautiful or remind me of places I love. 

When I was in art school we had to hand in our sketchbooks as part of our assessment each term and I remember how I struggled with drawing enough. For me the words came more easily and sometimes all i wanted to do was to hand in pages upon pages of scribbles and collages, just like this.

This is my happy place.


(None of these images have links or are credited to anywhere as they've been gathered over the years from all over the place and I have no idea where they are from anymore.)

Monday, November 3, 2014

On soup ... and sometimes taking care of ourselves too ...

A few days ago I had to run to the store before going past a friend's house to pick something up from her. She'd been sick for a few days with flu and at the store I stopped to choose some soup and fresh bread for her to leave on her porch. As I walked on, adding groceries to my basket, I wondered to myself what I would eat for lunch when i finally got home. Maybe a quick slice of toast with coffee. Did we even have any bread ? It was the middle of a crazy day in the middle of a crazy week when I felt like i was being pulled into a million directions with all the things I needed to get done, and all the people I was doing them for. I stopped for a second then, right there between the milks and the cheeses ... why was it so easy to pick up soup and bread for a friend when she was not feeling well, but not that easy to do the same thing for myself. Why wasn't I paying myself the same attention I was paying her ? Just because I wasn't sick in bed didn't mean I didn't also need to nurture myself a little.

It's sometimes easy to get lost in our caring roles - the friends and family and school and work and other community projects we may sign up for. We rush around being all things to many people - driving carpools and running errands and cleaning and tidying and helping others around us do what needs to be done ... but sometimes we need to take a moment to make sure we're taking equally good care of ourselves.

I dropped off the soup and bread, and picked up the football kit, and ran more errands. And then I came home and made myself take a little lunch break outside too. To eat the soup I had bought for myself too. I sat in the cold fall sun and listened to the trees and for fifteen minutes I took a little time out of the busy day and savored my meal and felt so much better for it.

Sometimes that is all it takes to fill us up again.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

With the house suddenly quiet ...

The house is quiet. The bus left ages ago, a yellow blur along the road. The hours stretch out slowly before me. There is no haste and no need to rush. I pad from room to room just taking in the light. I drink tea on the deck and i sit in silence, not going anywhere. The lists in my head grow quiet and i watch the shadows dancing. Baby deer wander through the garden. They ignore me and move up into the woods, slowly grazing. 

I savour the last days of summer light, hot sun soaks through to the bone. I drink more tea and find my tori amos cd's. It's been a lifetime ago since i listened to these but when the music starts memories come flooding back. I try to work on a book that's been lying waiting for over a year but it seems I have forgotten how to write and the words come out all wrong. I drink more tea and think maybe i'll bake some cookies.

Slowly slowly settling into a new routine with time to myself for the first time in a long time. It's like wearing in a new pair of jeans. The ones that come home stiff and unyielding and way too dark from the store but after a few months of walks and curled up on the couch watching movies and cheering on from the sidelines during football games and bending to kiss a grazed knee and wiping soup and flour and streaks of paint and a few hundred washes ... they're softened and light blue and have become a second skin. That's what I am waiting for. Trying on new jeans. 

One day at a time.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Around here ... and grape jelly.

It's been a little while since i felt like writing .... in my head i jot down thoughts and write imaginary posts but then they waft away and are gone. It's been a little while because our summer didn't quite go to plan and i wasn't sure how to explain ... as things go sometimes. I was dreaming of a month spent hanging out in the garden, no schedules or homework or anywhere to be in a hurry - reading in the hammock and taking naps, kids playing happily, trips to the beach and the pool. A lot of ice cream.

Instead it was all upside down with things unforseen, and time needed to recover from sadness. We pulled inwards and withdrew a little, not wanting company or to be social. We got lost in football and nights on the field during practice ... bugs floating, flower-picking ... watching the night softly fall, the cicadas chirruping through the grasses. We lost a bit of summer, last month, but now we're savoring the late afternoon light and the cool of early mornings and the time for new beginnings.

Somewhere along the way i mislaid my creative mojo too. That spark. It just ... went out. I know to be patient, it's happened before, but something about this time feels a lot more final. As if I somehow realized that my time is up as far as painting goes. It was by now, or never. And that's just how it worked out. It's not something I need to do anymore. If I don't paint, life goes on. There was a time when that was not the case. 

I know the fire burns down sometimes, it's the natural cycle of things creative. It has to be stoked and brought back to life. It needs walks in the woods and time at the beach, quietly. Good books and rainy days and thought provoking movies. Music does it sometimes. A pottery class or trying something new. A trip. Or baking. Somehow i always end up in the kitchen. Maybe to keep my hands busy and my head free to float. But sometimes I also see work out there that takes my breath away and I think, if i can't do that, then i don't want to do this at all. I want to take someone's breath away too.

Today was our first day back at school, the house quiet for hours. For the first time in a long long time, I had a whole day to myself. I sat and drank tea on the deck and listened to the woods and the sun shone and the wind chimes tinkled and I thought ... this is enough. Right here.

And i baked muffins and made my first ever grape jelly. From scratch. Canning and everything. Two burnt fingers and a red-splattered kitchen do not seem too high a price to pay for jars of sticky red sweetness. Pancakes for dinner to celebrate the first day of school.

And fall around the corner, bringing with it thoughts of fresh orchard doughnuts and pumpkins and apples ... wearing jeans and sweaters again. I am ready for the change in season. I am ready for a cool wind to blow and to huddle up inside. I am ready to be quiet for a few months longer. I need the quiet. And summers are never really good for being quiet.

So if it's quiet around here, it's just me sitting on the deck sipping my tea .. watching the deer and the wild turkeys. Thinking about creative juices and how to stoke the fire and dreaming of distant shores and journeys not yet taken.

Love and light always.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

... on out and about and the little things.

Sometimes we get cabin fever and the squabbling reaches fever pitch and the nerves fray a little faster when the husband is away and it's solo parenting for over a week. Then it's time to rush everyone out of the door and no we are not staying home, and no, you cannot take electronics in the car and please put on your shoes even if you really hate the farm and can you maybe screech a little softer as i cannot find my keys ?

And then we are there and it's just down the road but it's a change of scene and we are out. The mood shifts and our feet crunch gravel and there's music playing, and so many people, it feels quite festive here today. We wonder down the path where the farmer's market sits and drool over pastries and freshly baked bread. We buy honey sticks and the kids bite into them at once. Fresh honey and i tell them about how we had beehives growing up, and how no honey ever tasted better. We eat our lunch in the shade of the grapevine and listen to the band playing country beneath the tree. It's Sunday afternoon and the sun is just perfect and we crack jokes and smile at each other again.

We stop to smell the flowers and watch a butterfly drifting up and down. The day feels slow and warm and full. I dream of one day growing my own wild jungly flower garden, behind the fence where the deer can't reach. We walk along the familiar path to see the lambs and talk about having a black one of our own, to keep the lawn trimmed. And because I love sheep.

We drive home, happy to have been out. Just a change of scene.

Like the carnival the night before, with candy floss and lots of rides. A stripey tiger was even won and cuddled all night long.

And tonight the skies opened at the end of football practice, I the only mother not prepared with umbrella or jackets even though it rained on and off all day long. We clung to each other in the downpour and stumbled muddily up the dirt track from the field, now a running torrent of brown. Not an inch of us was dry but we were laughing at the adventure and there was something healing on a rough day that today was, to be all scrubbed clean and pink, eating egg on toast and drinking tea around the kitchen table. Feeling English. The sky dark outside and moths beating their wings against the screen door. The three of us warm inside, flowers from the garden bringing color to the table. Cuddles on the couch and quiet peacefulness in the house when sleep time came. 

It's the little things sometimes. Just the little things.


Friday, August 1, 2014

On heaviness and beaches and escape is a good thing (sometimes) ...

This year has had a heaviness to it. It has dragged and bumped and ground it's way along instead of soaring weightlessly like an airborne kite. It has left me tired and wanting to stay low to the ground, out of the way of gusty winds and high places. Quiet, retreating, re-assessing. Not like the busy fullness of last year, this one has had a weight to it, i carry it on my shoulders.

I've watched family and friends around me suffering in too many different ways ... broken hearted twice too many times. Illness and life challenges and unplanned changes in direction and battling the head winds ... and i've had to stand by helplessly, hoping everyone finds their course again, hoping for gentle landings and healing and new beginnings and for things to come right again. 

I watch the news on the Middle East and think how sometimes I only see grey, and not the black and white - not wanting to take sides ... i think of history and the pain of generations and how hatred and misunderstanding can so easily grow and become entrenched until it's such an integral part of a place, a people, a culture. How history can define us and how hard it is to break free. How i see no sides but only suffering and violence and I think of the children and the mothers and the tears and the losses. On both sides.

Sometimes when the weight becomes too heavy, it's time to run away for a little while and that's what we did. Just for a week, just up the coast. A few hours driving but a world away. Our first vacation in over two years. Long overdue. Quiet gardens and soft rain, gentle beaches and a slow soothing week away. For me at last a chance to stay completely unplugged (by choice), just time for early morning walks and bidding each day goodnight on the beach, feet bare and sandy and counting shells. Books and naps and ice-creams and windy waves. It was good for the soul. Just a reprieve. A chance to put the weight down for a little while and then, when it was time to come back home, the weight felt just a tiny bit lighter than before, or maybe my shoulders stronger and able to take the load again.

Sometimes that's what we need, a reminder of what is beautiful and quietly blossoming in the world. A chance to breathe and collect ourselves again. To remember the good that people are doing in their own ways everywhere, the unexpected surprises, no matter how small ... the lovely words being sent out daily into the ether from all corners of the world ... the books and poems and songs and blog posts and funny quirky jokes on Facebook. They restore our faith, they help us take deep breaths and carry on.

Sometimes we just need to sit quietly on the edges of a water too big to fathom, so that we remember that we don't need to have all the answers, all at once (or ever!), that not everything will make sense, that sometimes we're so confused and lost and we wander blindly but then we turn a corner, unexpectedly, and find something light and new and wonderful. Sometimes on that beach we see the beauty in the sunrise and a white shell fresh from the sea and it's enough just to be sitting there, salty air and cool breezes. Just that.

Wishing all of you many moments of lightness and airborne kite flying, and a lot less of the heaviness in the months ahead.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The other mom ... and bedtimes

Somewhere out there is a mom who glides beatifically through bedtime. She is calm. Serene. She speaks quietly yet firmly and all who are in her path, listen. She does not need to raise her voice. She does not need to yell. She could be humming mantras as she walks slowly up the stairs, children following happily.

She does not scream. She is not snatching at loose limbs as they come careering past her, desperate to grab a hold and to gain control. She does not whack out at passing bottoms or heads, or yank an ear of somebody not listening. HER children do not laugh in her face when she tells them to get into the shower, or that it's time for bed. There are no tantrums or bodies thrown onto the floor in protest in her house. 

There is only calm. Peacefulness. Everyone knows their place. The routine familiar and secure. She has been perfecting it since her children were infants. Each and every one of them knows the routine, it does not vary.

In her house some nights are not television and others video games, some nights playmobil scenes which take over the whole bottom floor of the house. Late nights at the pool or dinner eaten in the garden. In her house baths are taken like clockwork, not dependent on mood or levels of dirt. Swimming does not count as bathing and lack of sweat is not a decent excuse to skip. Bathtime is a happy time of bubbles and toys and the last rays  of sun beaming down onto rosy cheeks.

Cheeks well fed with nutritious home made meals, lovingly prepared while children draw or play outside. Harmoniously. She hardly ever has to interrupt her cooking to walk outside and issue a stern word. Hardly a need to reprimand. HER children know how to behave. They are kind and courteous, even to each other and when she calls them to dinner they run inside eagerly and wash their hands and sit down nicely without scrabbling for chairs or pulling wedgies on their sisters. THEY do not spit into each other's plates or pour spoons full of food into each others water glasses. THEY do not eat with fingers or speak with mouths full of food. They never ever swear. In their house dessert happens only on weekends and no one knows what soda even is.

Teeth are well brushed and there are no cavities. Hair is not left tangled at bedtime and there are always enough socks in the morning. Clothes are not found littered in piles across the floor or thrown into the laundry because no one can remember if they are dirty or clean. There are always enough clean towels. The toothpaste never runs out.

Somewhere there is a mom who handles bedtime with gracefulness and ease. She manages to keep it fun but also stays in control, firmly but kindly. She can laugh and steer the sillyness to her advantage, so that it's a competition to see who's ready for bed first. She smooths a stray curl, tucks and kisses. Her bedtimes are reassuring and full of love. Her children never tell her they hate her or wish she wasn't their mom. And if they did she would smile and say just the right words in response.

Her bedtime is not fraught with chaos, an emotional rollercoaster of shouting and no one listening. She is never ignored or worse still, laughed at. She does not have to resort to threats or hot sauce or creative punishments. In her house the hour before bedtime is a time of calm and family cuddles. When bedtime is done, she glides downstairs into her gleaming kitchen to make herself a cup of tea. There are always clean cups and the dishes from dinner are already cleared away.

She never stumbles downstairs to piles of dishes on the counter and thinks maybe breaking them might be a sensible alternative to washing them again. She never dreams of running off into the night and letting her offspring fend for themselves for a night. And if she were to think said thoughts and maybe share them with her kids, HER offspring would never celebrate and decide that it was cause for a party. She would never walk back upstairs to find one of them wearing a pink witches hat and a pair of glasses, looking highly dismayed to see her back again and saying 'but you said you were giving up, we were going to have a party all night.'

Somewhere out there a mom glides around the house after bedtime, calm and unruffled and still smiling. Her husband smiling proudly down at her.

Somewhere out there another mom looks as if she's been dragged through the
bushes backwards, reaching for the coffee or something stronger at 9.25 pm. The house is finally silent, her partner not yet home, and she ignores the piles of dishes and bills still to be paid. She takes her coffee or something stronger and staggers onto the couch to collapse in front of the T.V. where for a few hours she gets to forget which of the two houses she lives in, before she wakes up the next morning to do it all again.