The Minimalist Vegan – A Review

The Minimalist Vegan: A simple manifesto on why to live with less stuff and more compassion by Micheal and Maša Ofei does what it says on the cover.

This is not a ‘how to’ book but a ‘why’ book. For me, is serves as a reminder and an inspiration as the world we live in continues to suffers from “The More Virus”: the mentality of always wanting more.

This book doesn’t tell me anything that I haven’t read before, but I’m just grateful that this information is all in one place and up to date.

Micheal and Maša, the creators of the website The Minimalist Vegan, mark out how minimalism and veganism intersect, how these concepts work hand in hand to help us live more mindful and grateful and compassionate lives.

Our economic system is based on constant growth by any means necessary. It thrives on us consuming more. Each day we are bombarded by thousands of messages and adverts which persuade us to buy and consume more. The adverts promise us happiness and satisfaction and connection, playing upon emotional triggers. But once we get this new product home, it fails to provide the promised benefits. The thrill soon wears off and we’re left seeking another fix promising happiness and satisfaction and connection.

This book upholds the less is more doctrine. How if we simplified our lives, became more mindful of what we consume, becoming more aware of how every decision we make impacts our lives as well as everything and everyone around us, then we will stand a better chance of saving our lives and the life of this planet.

I found this book a quick and easy read but still important in terms of the messages it advocates. It serves as a reminder that change isn’t easy especially if we’d rather do what everyone else is doing to fit in rather than stand out and make a stand against the industries and practices which cause animals harm.

Did you know that about eight million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans every single year? The figures in this book are shocking. What is more shocking is when we know the figures and could do something to change them, to make this a better world for all species, we still
choose to do nothing and continue along this path of self and others’ destruction.

Reading this book does affect me and makes me question what more I can do. What behaviours can I start to change today in order to buy and waste less and be more compassionate? Anyone who reads this book and isn’t compelled to make change really is missing the point.

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Loosening The Bounds

I missed submitting for the special challenge with Nine Muses Poetry this month. The challenge is to respond or be inspired by a different photograph posted at the beginning of each month. For April the image was fittingly Viewing Cherry Blossoms at Ueno, by Katsukawa Shunzan. I completed this poem this morning in response.

Loosening the Bounds

I wish I could say,
the orchard is a rare find.
That I never think of blossom.
That the pure smell doesn’t
undulate to the sea.

But that would be lying.
At this time of year,
there’s no escaping the stain,
the crowds. No escaping him.

His neck is red. Pain in his head.
That must be why he seldom smiles.
I know I put them on a pedestal.
I want what they had.

How they kept the blossom from dying.

Perhaps, the sea is history
and the lop-sided pagoda clinging
to the shoreline, made me think
we were going somewhere.

Same images played over and
over again. The trickster,
just using my face. My skin. My voice.
Give me the cherry blossom every time,

time with my sisters,
lost in the crowds, easing off
our sandals, loosening our bounds
like blossom caught on the bsea breeze.

The Phoenix Soul

The Phoenix Soul started out as a digital magazine but now it is so much more; a collaborative blog, a creative community, a life-line for women who put creativity at the centre of their lives.

I’ve been lucky to be featured within the digital magazine a few times over the years. Issue 60, Inner Truth, saw me sharing about my embracing of my authenticity and intuition. Issue 62 Whole Hearted Living, details my love of getting into the sea and swimming with nature. The thrill. The medicine.

And I will soon feature within the collaborative blogging space as one of the new artist profiles. But until then I wanted to share from the blog a post by the creator of The Phoenix Soul, Amanda Fall. In this post she explores #bodypositivity through art journaling. And as someone who is on the path of self-love and body acceptance whatever my size, I found this share and video inspiring. I hope you do too.

Where I work

I wish I could display a wide open space with large tables, easels, storage for paintings and tools. With natural light streaming through so many windows that the space is forever bright. But I can’t.

I can’t afford a studio. If I’m organised, I can use the spare room which is my son’s room when he returns for visits from Uni. But recently, it’s become a dumping ground for when I’ve come in from an event or job and I’m too tired to sort out my bags. The room soon becomes unable to get into and the clutter enters my mind.

I’m much better being a mobile artist. Packing a bag and going to a hotel room to work is my ideal working space. And recently with having to travel for union work and family gatherings, I’ve managed to monopolise clean and white hotel rooms to create colourful, vibrate paintings be that my abstracts or my portraits of black women. And it has been welcomed and liberating.

So yes I don’t have a regular space to create at home but I don’t allow that to stop me from continuing to explore my visual language.

Four Months: Friday

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Friday is our last full today together. It is with great sorrow that I have to bring this circle to an end. I hate goodbyes. I usually sneak out in the dead of night, before anyone else is awake, to avoid saying goodbye. To avoid having to look my fellow travellers in the eye and allow them to see how deeply this time with them, this experience has touched me, changed me.

But today, this time, I stand before you and acknowledge how much you have brought and contributed to this retreat. I couldn’t have done it without you. I acknowledge how much our time together has left such an impression upon me. I know I’m not the same person who arrived here just a few days ago to facilitate this holding of space for you.

I don’t want our time together to end, but end it must but I stand before you saying goodbye confident in the feels that you are leaving here also changed; empowered and inspired and more secure in yourself and who you be.

Before we leave, let’s spend one more morning together with our visual journals. Let’s continue the magic one more time as we play with paint, visuals and texts. Let’s share those images of our days together; the sunrises over breakfast, the tears of recognition as we open up to each other, the smells of fresh cooked pancakes and strawberries and chocolate, the laughter late into the midnight sun. Let’s make a promise to ourselves to keep giving ourselves this time and space to think and dream and breathe.

In the afternoon, we drive to
Jökulsárlón. Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon, bordering Vatnajökull National Park in southeastern Iceland. Its waters are a strange turquoise blue, still and dotted with icebergs. On one side is a black sand beach. On the other, the route leads to the Atlantic Ocean. As mesmerising as this glacier lagoon is, it’s here evidence of global warming lies. What we do with this knowledge is yet to be decided. But the conversation has begun.

Sarah Spaeth

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Hello Sarah. Welcome to Livng Wild Studios. Thank you for agreeing to answer these questions. We are so looking forward to spending time with you in Iceland.

1. Tell us something about yourself (How did we meet?)

I have spent most of my life being washed in the drizzle of the temperate rainforest and rich habitats of the Salish Sea, located in the NW corner of the US. Getting lost in the woods, paddling the waters, climbing the mountains and dancing to the diverse beats of the community -the slurp of oysters, the tang of strawberries and rhubarb from the garden, my mother’s forays in Indian quisine, Grandma Glickman’s kosher pickles, the Kurose family sukiyaki – all built my bones, tantilized my tastebuds for the wild, and fed my character and curiousity like the flesh of spawned out salmon feeds the bears and otters and mink and eagles and cedar trees and giant firs of our place in this world. Nurturing this place, the creatures that live here, including my three sons, my husband, extended family and friends has been my life, through a long and sporadic career of feeding people, including starting a bakery and cooking aboard natural history charter boats, and over twenty years of conservation work to preserve Fish, Farms and Forest habitat of the Olympic peninsula. I nurture myself through adventures in the wild and of the heart, and through travel to different landscapes and cultures.

It was on one such adventure that I met Sheree in the hills outside of Rome, where we helped a group of artists harvest olives from their olive grove for a few days. That was the beginning of my deep affection and great admiration for Sheree that has grown with her visits to the NW. I feel SO fortunate to have her in my life!

2. What gets you up out of bed in the morning?

The view out my bedroom window is a reminder of how fortunate and privileged I am to live in a beautiful home built by my family in a welcoming, creative and progressive community. I look upon cedar trees and willows, birds dashing from the bushes to the feeders and the sounds of croaking frogs and ravens overhead. My garden feeds us, as do the famers of our region, and my work as the Director of Conservation at Jefferson Land Trust is very gratifying, as I get to help the community to preserve open space, working farms and forests and wildlife habitat, forever!

3. What do you know to be true in your heart?

As far as I know, we are given one life on this amazing planet, and we need to live it to its fullest! Find and follow your passion, nuture your creativity, appreciate the people in your life and what you are given, and dance!!

4. What was the best advice your received? The above!

5. What are your thoughts about a woman’s place/ position in society at the moment?

Women have a lot of opportunities these days that my mother’s generation and those before did not. In my own world, this has manifest in a career that garners respect and opportunities. In the greater picture, it seems that a fuse has been lit to take the women’s movement to the next level, hopefully addressing the deep inequalities, gender stereotypes, actions and attitudes that continue to divide us and foster disrespect and oppression of women. I believe that our future will be brighter with more women in power. It will be a bumpy road, but I hope that we can demonstrate how to do this with respect, love and compassion for all genders, races and cultures.

6. How do you hold a relationship with the land?

I believe in the concept of reciprocity, as Robin Wall Kimmerer in her book Braiding Sweetgrass writes. We are nurtured by the land in so many ways – from the food and other natural resources it provides us, to the solace and soul food of time spent in nature. In turn, we must nurture the land and creatures of the world as well, otherwise we will lose the riches offered us.

7. What are you looking forward to most about your time in Iceland? Why did you agree to come along for the ride?

I am really excited about the adventure in Iceland!! Of course, I’m eager to explore the landscape and culture of a new place – it’s glaciers, people and foods. I’m also very intrigued to explore the inner landscape of creative thought and spirit with a group of inspired women, led by our amazing Sheree!

8. What are you planning to offer to the Iceland Retreat. What plans have to put in place so far? 

I look forward to nurturing my new friends – with good food inspired by what Iceland has to offer; with foot rubs and laughter and dance! My latest passion is wildlife tracking, and it will be so great to explore Iceland’s wildlife mysteries with the group.

9. Anything you’d like to add? Gratitude, night-Time routine? Rituals?

I am very grateful for the opportunity to join you all in this experience! I look forward to stretching myself – with yoga, new creative tools, daily practices and adventures.

Folksy Store

I was going to write, ‘for some reason’ …But I know my reason for real. And that reason is fear.

A couple of weeks ago, I opened a Folksy Store.
I felt the need to start selling my artwork. Starting with my abstract paintings, I’ve been quietly posting my items for sale onto the storefront and that’s it, leaving them there, hoping that someone would come along and buy.

I’m reminded of that song from Oliver- The Musical; Who will buy my sweet red roses? Two blooms for a penny.

The answer is no one. No one will buy if they don’t know you’re selling.
This has been the case with me, as I might have mentioned it in passing, or provided a link to the store in a profile, but I haven’t really been broadcasting it because of fear.

Fear has stopped me really opening my mouth and singing, who will buy?
Fear that no one will like my artwork. Fear that no one will buy my artwork.

But here’s the thing, I don’t create to sell. I create my work because of the way it makes me feel in the process. Because I gain so much joy and freedom from just playing with paint, moving it around the blank space, enjoying the feeling as something takes shape, comes into being which didn’t exist a moment before. Sharing this love, this joy, the feeling comes naturally to me.

It’s what I always do. I share my love in my artwork and writing through social posts. So why be fearful of sharing this love a little bit further, a little bit closer through offering to sell what I create to individuals

It’s only now, that I see the connection and see how this isn’t about the money, but about sharing little pieces of my soul. And being recognised and appreciated for doing so.

Check out the only listing at the moment, Blue Blush. But don’t worry more are coming and a selection will be showcased on this website. All listing will be made available at my beautiful Folksy store. Have I told you about my new store?

My Creative Year in Review – Part 2

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In recent years during December I’ve taken the time and space to reflect back on the past twelve months in terms of my creative life. It is always inspiring and surprising to remember the things I have achieved as well as the mistakes I have learnt from along the way.

Following this practice of review means that I enter the next year, fired up and focused about the choices I want to make going forward.
If I had to sum up 2017 in 3 words it would include courage, voice and business.

Let’s take a look at each month ( the year is split into two part,  part one here) and see what happened along the way to carry me into 2018, older but so much more younger in terms of wonder and curiosity.

July offered up the opportunity to share my practice with others as I became one of the women in residence with Idlewomen for a week on a canal boat. This was such an amazing experience, one I was most thankful for as I got to share my love of visual journaling with other women who were in need of a safe space to explore their own voices. I also felt reaffirmed in my desire to support women, particularly black women in their relationship with the natural world.
Hence me putting feelers out there on social media about who was interested in the creation of an Iceland Creative Retreat.

August was downtime as I took the family for a tour of Southern Iceland. It was lovely to return with the family and witness them fall in love with the country just like me. The only problem is now is that they want to return so it might mean I don’t get back there alone ever. But it’s not really a problem as I love sharing my experiences of Iceland.

After the summer break, in September, I came back to business with planning a visual journaling workshop just down the road from me. I also completed an important draft of the chapbook focusing upon black women’s bodies in society due to be published with Culture Matters in 2018.

October was a month of upheaval and change as we were forced to move house and downsize. But it was really a blessing in disguise as it gave me the opportunity to declutter, to become more minimalist as well as to prioritise my creativity. As a reaction to less time, I made time to blog more consistently through the move.
I started my next creative non-fiction project around the theme of death. More to talk about around this soon.

November was earmarked as a period of time to settle into the new home but that didn’t go to plan as I did withdraw from social media again but I was still beavering away behind the scenes. I was interviewed by Amanda Fall from The Phoenix Soul, as part of this digital magazine’s Truth Tribe Interviews. I had a soft launch of The Iceland Creative Retreat and filled half the spots. And then I enjoyed a women’s gathering in Pendle Lancashire called Shifting Loyalties when I enjoyed the challenge of sharing my visual journaling practice with over 30 women all at the some time. To be there, to witness this transformation in creativity made my heart sing.

December was time to wind down and get ready for the holidays. I took the time to explore December Reflections on IG hosted by Susannah Conway. With a much needed rest again from social media, I spent the time gained to read as well as fire up the creativity with completing Tara Leaver’s Practical Intuition course to create my own Iceland Oracle Deck. This fed into #IcelandInsights where I am sharing text and images each day in January in relation to my love of Iceland. There are more Oracle Decks in the pipeline for 2018.

So on reflection of 2017, on the whole, was very productive and successful in terms of moving forward with my voice as well as increasing my courage in being present as my authentic self. I hope to build upon the gains made here into 2018. I have learnt that the downtime and rest is just as important if not more so than the productive times. In these quiet moments, conversing with myself, I am learning to listen and observe more deeply and truthfully.

My Creative Year in Review – Part 1

In recent years during December I’ve taken the time and space to reflect back on the past twelve months in terms of my creative life. It is always inspiring and surprising to remember the things I have achieved as well as the mistakes I have learnt from along the way.

Following this practice of review means that I enter the next year, fired up and focused about the choices I want to make going forward.
If I had to sum up 2017 in 3 words it would include courage, voice and business.

Let’s take a look at each month ( the year will be split into two parts) and see what happened along the way to carry me into 2018, older but so much more younger in terms of wonder and curiosity.

January came in cold and dark. The ideal time to go deeper into my practice of hygge. During my winters walks #TheHealingPeopertiesOfTheSeas was conceived as a one day symposium all about our relationship with water. This has still to take place but the concept is out there and can be found on IG  and Twitter. Holding this idea throughout the year has meant that I’ve been curating short 10 second films around water. These will be available to watch and add to during 2018.

February was the beginning of my exploration of voice. Having been chosen to take part in an Arvon foundation residential course for writers wanting to make change happen, I met a whole heap of interesting people who supported me on my journey of claiming and using my authentic voice around the theme of my body in the environment. This led into further publications of my creative non-fiction poetic writing here. I was also exploring my voice through painting by completing Painting the Feminine with Connie Solera. This was another opportunity for me to embody my multi-layered identity, providing the tools and techniques to support my self-expression.

March saw me return to Iceland as part of a self-directed residency with The Westfjords Residency. To spend an extended amount of time in an isolated village miles from a major town was testing. I questioned what I was trying to achieve by doing this, in terms of my creativity as well as my life. It was unsettling to some extent as all my usual boundaries were missing and for a while there I did flounder. I also experienced some racial abuse while in Reykjavik which made me question my relationship with the whole country. March was definitely a learning curve which manifested in a deeper love of Iceland which meant before I left I made plans to share this love with my family.

April was another month of learning as I not only completed a Woodland leader training course in the Highlands of Scotland but I also went live with my new website and brand name Living Wild Studios. I’d procrastinated enough and it was time to be seen, showcasing all of my creative adventures under one roof.
It was a scary time but one that I wouldn’t change as I went with my gut and created a beautiful website I’m proud to call my home. It’s varied and dynamic and changing to reflect how I’m changing.

May seemed to have gone in a blur. I know it was a time of disrupted plans due to Alan’s mam being in hospital for an extended stay. It was a time of sticking close to home and putting my family first and foremost. But I did try to keep moving forward with Living Wild Studios as a business, extending my reach through social media. To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy this month as I was trying to operate in a way that wasn’t being authentic to me. I had to explore my relationship with social media, with the pubic arena at large and withdraw to do so. This was good for me, for my sanity.

I continued my social media hiatus into June. I felt I was just settling into my own space and voice by the end of May so wanted more time away from distractions to listen within. This was an important month for me to dive deep into the Creative Facilitator Training I had started with Lisa Sonora this year. I had been building up a resistance to the course as it wasn’t as I had thought it would be. I expected more. But then I realised that this is an experiential course and I get out of it what I put into it. All along I’m using myself and my experiences and beliefs as the learning examples so in order to learn and move forward I had to be more engaged. A light bulb moment which saw me returning at the end of the month to social media to share my visual journaling practice, the foundation of my creativity, much more extensively and thoroughly than before.

ten: five

1. A grey morning.
2. That heavy feeling when you should get up but don’t want to.
3. The canned background noise of joy.
4. Big meaty raindrops on the bedroom window.
5. Icy air creaking in under doors and between boards.
6. The bitter taste of resentment.
7. The overwhelming feeling that this too will pass.
8. There’s no need to be afraid of death, he said.
9. I pull the duvet up and over.
10. My shower can wait.