Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas ...

However you celebrate, wishing you a beautiful festive season. May there be light and a little love, a dusting of magic and a lot of laughter. 

It's a bitter-sweet time of year for me always ... being away from family and friends, and this year especially as a storm took out the phone lines so not even a phone call home. There are delayed flights today as we wait for family to arrive, and a few recent disappointments along the way ... but I'm thankful today for family visiting from far away, for friends to share the holidays with ... for cookies and a beautiful dog we are babysitting for a while. For the sillyness of kids and presents under the tree. For a little down time from the hectic pace of life.

Merry Christmas.


Friday, December 19, 2014

On paths less travelled and being a little lost ....

'I chose the Road less Travelled, and now I don't know where the hell i am.'

(Print of the quote available on Etsy here).

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook this morning and it's so exactly where I am right now. Where I've been for a while. So maybe putting words out into the universe will help me find the direction that's proving to be so elusive at the moment.

Maybe it's the midlife thing. The questioning all life decisions made ... wondering about paths taken, and not. I know it's important to leave the past behind and to look forward. I read all the quotes on Facebook every day. About positive energy and accepting one's mistakes and choices and making peace with the past (And the funniest dog videos. Which I'm not sure why they are shared. I ignore those). There are beautiful mantras about living life to the full, being at peace, striving for ones' dreams. There are adverts for soulful retreats and rekindling your creative passion and finding your true calling and so the list goes. I'm tempted by some of them. If only it were that easy ... take a course and everything will fall into place. I've signed up for Beth's online 'Do What you Love' course in January, so i'm not a total cynic and I'm holding onto that spark of hope ! I met Beth 5 years ago just after Lexi had been born, when I was just emerging from months of bed rest and baby focus to remember the big wide world out there. We took an online creative business course together and she has just flown. I remember meeting her for lunch one sunny afternoon in Hoboken and being so amazed by her life story, her drive, her vision. Her business has grown from strength to strength. So maybe I'll find some answers ... maybe she'll help me ask the right questions. 

It's not the first time I've been in transition. That place in between what was, and what is yet to come. Only not always knowing what's around the corner, feeling worried and uncertain and wondering what's to come. If anything is waiting. Maybe that's the biggest fear - that the best is behind me and there's nothing more there. I remember struggling to choose where to study - tossing two completely different lives from hand to hand, wondering how on earth I was meant to pick one of them to follow. Choosing to leave to travel, and how difficult that was. London. New York. Marriage. Jobs. Studies. Children. 

The past 8 years have been about settling us in a new country which is no longer new and is now home. It's been about building family and putting down roots and making friends and losing some along the way. It's been about finding the place we think will be good for raising our munchkins, somewhere with space and room to run. It's also meant hard choices and sacrifices and lately, I've realized it's meant a lot more loneliness - out here in the country. Also feeling cut off from old friends and old lives, and from two other countries which also hold people that I love.

Now that Lexi is in school full time i'm in transition again. I know a shift is coming. I hope a shift is coming. At first i welcomed the free time and the hours of peace and quiet. But I find myself running errands and cleaning floors and day after day has begun to feel the same. I'm restless and a little sad and very lost about where to go next. 

Erika Jong said (and I'm quoting loosely here) that you cannot write a book and have a clean kitchen. You can't be a writer and bake home made pies. The idea that domestic bliss leaves little time for creative pursuits for a woman. I agree wholeheartedly and I know it comes down to carving out time for what's important. But here's the thing she didn't say ... that it's easier to clean a kitchen and bake home made pies than to write a book. And that's exactly where i'm at. Right now, I'm keeping busy with the floors and pretending that's enough. Even though I know it's not.

I lose the days and myself a little with them in the day to day of keeping home and taking care of a family. I'm aware of it. Completely. I watch my friends and ex-colleagues change jobs and move up the ladder that I used to climb with them. I celebrate as they open their own businesses and sell beautiful paintings, as they grow their galleries and teach and buy new houses. I wave them goodbye on their travels and congratulate them on their PHD's. I glow with pride at their interviews and published work. I watch them find their paths, their life's work, and I jump up and down with joy for them. I'm genuinely happy. For all of them. But I feel just as lost as I was at 18 and then again after university, and a few times along the way, and I wonder when my passion will find me. What my life work is. If I will ever find it. Or has it been there all along and me just not paying attention ?

I don't have a funny quote to end my self-focused post with today ... there's no quick comeback or easy solution. I guess the reason I wanted to share this today is that I know i'm not the only one ... sometimes it takes time to find our feet, to find new paths when the old ones come to an end. I've learnt the hard way that important decisions should not be rushed or made in a panic. That way only leads to chaos and heartache. It's important to take time, to listen to the voice inside, to give the heart time to speak. Because it sometimes only whispers and we have to silence the world in order to hear. To summon courage for a new start. 

So till then, i'll be here, sweeping my floors and baking my pies and waiting for the answers to come. And hoping that it's true that a little faith goes a long way.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ava Maria

It's hard to read the news some days .... it makes me want to hide under the covers and run for the hills, somewhere far away where it will not find me with it's stories of death and savagery and hatred. Just the past few days there's been the hostage situation in Sydney, an awful family shooting spree here in the States, and a Taliban School massacre I read about first thing this morning. It was the anniversary of Sandy Hook this week. It's just a little way away from where I live. Just to name a few.

And so this morning this is what I wanted to share ... I think about how it's almost Christmas, how in the midst of all the turmoil and darkness there will still be light - that there are people always doing beautiful things, like the 'I'll Ride With You' sentiment in Sydney ... how hearts swell to love and take care of those around them when it's needed. That prayers are still answered, in the midst of despair.

Wishing you light and love and peace during this holiday season.

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.