Remembering last year

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A year ago, March, I was on an artist residency in the #westfjordsiceland – remember? I created this time and space alone for me from scratch because I wanted to return and experience Iceland again after my island tour.
Wow want a difference a year makes. I got lost a bit out there, in the dark and desolate place. But I also found out stuff about myself; that I love solitude, exploring new places, and sharing my joy on my own terms. I’m planning on doing just that in June, when we have a #summersolstice creative retreat happening in #Iceland. This is going to be an intimate affair. Only space for 5 women, including me. It’s half filled already. Writing, art, yoga, nature, Wild swimming, good food, good company, laughter and no doubt tears.
If you’ve been itching to visit Iceland, this is your opportunity. Time away from your everyday,experiencing the sublime within a supportive sisterhood as well as space and time for solitude. As I said, I like my solitude and breathing space. Just to be. Check out the details in my profile. DM if you have any questions. #practice #visualjournal #selfportraitureasmedicine #seeingmyself #wildawimming #outdoors #womenscreativity #walkingwriting #walkingwomen #creativeretreaticeland #icelandcreativeretreat
 

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.

Four Months: Thursday

We leave our Eco-house early driving into Reykjavik for coffee and breakfast at Braun’s, a delicious bakery selling fresh bread, cinnamon swirls and croissants.

From here we have the length and breadth of the city centre to play with.

We become the Flaneuses, the walking women that we are. Armed with our cameras and pens and journals we begin our adventure.

We walk up the hill to the iconic church, Hallgrímskirkja. We take inspiration from the exterior, designed to resemble the Icelandic landscape with its rocks, mountains and glaciers. This a sharp contrast to it’s clean, understated and simple interior of grey and padded pews. We take the lift to the top of the tower and see the streets of Reykjavík below us as well as the sea and surrounding snow-capped mountains. We are Queens, women unto ourselves up here. We take this sense of power and awe back down as we sit and take time to capture our thoughts and feelings of being here, now. Being present.

Let me take you into a hidden garden of sculptures just by the church. Einar Jonsson Museum. Many walk by and miss this moment of beauty. But we don’t as you have a frequent visitor to Iceland as your guide. Me.  We stop and write here too soaking up the quiet and peace right in the middle of the city.

Down the hill we walk in the direction of the museums and art galleries. We have a few to choose from and it all depends on what they’re exhibiting. The Photograhy Museum is a favourite of mine. The criteria for selection is women, nature and beauty.

We enjoy a workshop within the gallery, stopping for lunch and sharing our creations. Then the afternoon we have the time and space to shop, walk, explore alone or together but really experience the feel and buzz of this compact but vibrant city centre.

As the days are long, we can stay as long as we wish in the city, grabbing dinner, catching a concert at Harpa, experiencing the nightlife. We play it by ear as the adventure just keeps enfolding just beyond our next step.

Four Months: Tuesday

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As I undergo my A Wild Soul Woman Certificate Training, I bring my learning and experiences to our time together with an exploration of the landscapes of Iceland.

In our morning workshop, we bring to the table a birthing journey – a journey to get closer to our true selves. Being with nature, writing and reading about nature, is the key to this process. As Mary Reynolds Thompson has said: ‘ In order to heal the self, we have to heal the earth and in order to heal the earth, we have to heal the self.’ We are in a circular relationship with ourselves and the world around us.

We are not on the hero’s journey but the heroine’s journey, so the path is not linear or goal orientated. Our path moves inward and spirals. This journey is all about the process, and the birthing of new selves again and again. We will move through the different landscapes of Iceland, on the page in our journals as well as on foot outdoors, to journey into the depths of our wild hearts.

Here in the desert, the barren land, we learn to let go, release our preconceived ideas of who we think we are as well as any identities that have been out on us by others, so we can just be. Surrendering.

But is everything really dead here? Within the lava fields, their is life and there is growth. Organisms have adapted and accepted what is,  learning how to thrive in such harsh conditions. We as women can learn from this and thrive also within space. In the silence and solitude, at the end of the end,  we can learn how to listen to our passion, to our fire within.

Four Months – Monday

Miss Ella loves crispy chicken. She leaves it on her plate till last to eat. My mum used to do the same with beef. I don’t understand it me. I take meat or leave it. But, I’m all for the pleasure, satisfaction. Straight away. No delayed gratification.

This explains why, on this retreat, after your self-made breakfast, we start in with the paints preparing backgrounds in our special visual journals. I like to use Pink Pig Pads, because the paper is extra thick, is robust and takes many a coat of paint, ink and glue. So I’ve got an A4 or even a square version of this journal. You bring along your own special journal. One that you’ve been stashing away for a special time or reason. Well this is that special time. Just make sure the pages can take all your creations.

We begin with paints, thick juicy colourful paints, and throughout this session we add images and text, intuitively. Working around the theme ‘Light’, we fill up our pages, working with specially prepared prompts and words for the occasion.

After lunch, we’re out and about. And remember the habit of saving the best till last! Not on this trip. We drive south, towards Vik and the black sand beaches. We stand within the roar of the Atlantic Ocean and feel the chill of the water upon our toes. We’re brave on this retreat, so we strip off, down to our cossies and our full bodies are on. Can you feel the power? Can you feel the thrill? We walk around the rocks to the sea stacks and the caves, soaking up the energy of this magical place.

On the way back we stop off at a number of waterfalls along the route. We walk the cliffs to the top, to the source. We walk behind the falls and feel the fresh spray of water. We are happy to be alive.

There will be free time and down time before dinner, prepared with locally sourced foods by Sarah Spaeth. Come and find out more about Sarah here. After we have time to share our a-ha moments of the day. What are our takeaways?

Still light in the day? Yes of course. This is the time of the midnight sun. Time to walk through the village, down to the shore and watch the sunset.

Juggling Balls

A new month equals new focus. Reflecting on the month gone and planning for the month ahead. Already, I feel as if I’m juggling so many ball but I know I’ve been carrying them around for a while. And I do pick them up gladly, it’s just some days I feel a bit overwhelmed.
It’s sometimes difficult to keep a handle on everything, to engage and move things forward. It always cones down to time and never having enough of it to get everything I want done, done. And then when there might be a window of time, I don’t have the energy to complete any task. Times like these are about keeping the faith and believing in the process.

Projects on the go NOW: ( Part 1)

1. Arts Council Funded creative project with writers around the First World War.
2. Heritage Lottery Funded project with Muslim girls around the First World War.
3. Developing Living Wild Studios as a creative business. Need to update/ rejig the website first.
4. Facilitating a creative retreat in Iceland this June. Planning schedule and securing two more people.
5. Stocking Folksy Store to sell my paintings, prints and collages.
6. Complete the writing and developing of my first e-course around visual journalling.
7. Explore my Iceland landscape abstract photography and paintings.
8. Develop my self-portraiture project through further research and practice.
9. Return to my Flaneuse research to feed into an offering in Paris. Research trip needs to be planned.
10. Start the planning for a women’s gathering in The Highlands through a research/self-appointed residency in March.
11. Start responding to the writing prompts from Eat My Stardust.
12. Listen to the second recording from Liberated Lines and write.
13. Complete final draft of poetry chapbook and send to Culture Matters ASAP.
14. Start the research and writing for my next full collection around our relationship with the land.
15. Continue with my self-directed study around seeking the Goddess.
16. Complete my Creative Journey Facilitator Training with Lisa Sonora.
17. Return to my developing creative non-fiction memoir around death.
18. Complete research around further grants and funding for women’s well-being projects.
19. Continue research for social enterprise – air on skin (working title) to encourage more ethnic minorities to develop a relationship with Nature.
20. Start self-appointed residency – North Sea Writer-in-Residence.
21. Return to second recording of Wild Soul Woman Facilitator training and respond with notes.
22. Get more sleep. Drink more water. Get more exercise. Eat more greens.

New Month

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I’m glad January is out of the way. We enter the new year with such high hopes and expectations that we, well me then, weigh the month down with it all.
It’s a dark time of the year in more ways than one. And I’m not sure when it became the norm but me and January fell out. I’ve been trying to heal the rift through time away, meeting friends, setting goals. But I have to be honest, I lost it there mid month. Maybe it was coming down after my Iceland trip. Or maybe it was post-Christmas fatigue. But I am glad to see the back of January.
February has already got a different feel to it. But correct me if I’m wrong but it is lighter, in more ways than one.
So as I stand at the threshold of this month, I set my intentions, take on new challenges and commitments for my creativity and soul.
I’ve returned to the body and my self-portraiture practice. Projects are started and will continue leading me where, I haven’t got a clue. Feeling my way through the process and practice and enjoying the journey.

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?

Studios Notes: A Love Letter From Iceland

Hello

I write to you on a cold wintry night from a luxury hotel room in Southern Iceland.

A storm is raging outside my window, which overlooks the world-famous black-sand beach found just beside the small fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach.

 

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The wind is lethal and the waves are hellish. But I wouldn’t want to be any other place right now but here. I’m back in Iceland completing the final details for the retreat in June as well as trying to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

There’s no chance of the Lights tonight not with this cloud cover and thick wet air. But I’m not complaining. I’m grateful to be here. I’m grateful to be able to follow my dreams.

While here, I’ve been posting on IG about my adventures as I’ve been experiencing frustrations like mini geysers. But I’m looking at these as periods of growth.

 

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Did you check out the mention in the first paragraph of ‘luxury hotel’? This wasn’t the plan. I try to do the things I want to do within budget. This trip was conceived on the cheap with stays in hostels. While here, I got to thinking about going south, of returning to Vik about 180kms from Reykjavik.

I remember my first time here, back in May 2016. I was blown away by the black sand. I couldn’t get my head around it. And I just dug my toes in and giggled as I felt the cold rush of waves. I fell in love.

So I return. I booked a guesthouse for an overnight stay. Not even half way here, weather warnings go out. Storm coming in about 3pm. Okay enough time to get to Vik, this is 11.30am. Next stop, no. Storm coming in at 2pm. Still 80kms away from Vik. It’s just after 1pm. The pressure is on to get safely to my place of rest. The beach can wait until tomorrow, at this rate.

Trying to keep calm and focused, I drive on. The heavens open. The wind thrashes and I’m still driving. Fog moving in. I could start to panic right about now. But I keep my head.

I managed to get to Vik and locate the guest house. Has anyone seen Rising Damp? 70s British sitcom about lodgers in a rundown house with Leonard Rossiter as a vindictive landlord called Rigsby? Well that’s what this guesthouse reminds me of. Not sure about the landlady as I don’t hang around long enough to find out.

 

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Will I ever learn! Anyone who’s followed my adventures will remember a similar situation when I visited Malaga in 2016. Book a place, cheaper than the rest with good reviews but turns out to be useless. Hence, staying in a luxury hotel tonight.

This experience holds many truths and lessons to be learned.

One, it reminds me of a time with my mum, when I was returning back to London after Christmas. Mum came with me, as I had to find a new place to live after a breakup with a boyfriend. I was teacher training, so looking for a room in a house. While we looked, I booked us into a guesthouse. We ended up in a smelly attic, in a double bed and all I can remember is mum saying, Don’t let the covers touch your face, Sheree, for God’s sake, don’t let them go anywhere near it. I can still hear her now after 18 years dead. Mum booked us into a B and B for the following night with a shower and TV. We laughed hard that night.

Two, how I relish my solitude, my own space. So hostels are out if longer than one night’s stay. But I also have standards, something I keep forgetting. Or more profoundly, there must be something within me that believes I don’t deserve to have better than I‘ve been giving myself. Allowing myself.

Three, it’s a big risk and commitment, leaving home and coming to a strange new country. I suppose I forget this. I’m getting used to travelling to Iceland, to travelling internationally alone. I’m not sure when I started this habit. Maybe while completing my PhD (2004 -2010), I was invited to speak in New York, Boston and Leon etc. It’s a practice but performed over time.

I’ve been neglecting this fact. Other people, other women, might not be used to travelling alone internationally. Might not have practiced it as much as me.

Hence booking up to run away with me to Iceland for a creative retreat is a big ask. A big ask and a big risk which I haven’t really appreciated until now.

So I thank you for coming with me on my retreats and adventures. Your presence is appreciated.

Anyway, enough from me for now. There’s a bottle of beer and bar of chocolate with my name on. I deserve them.

Until next time

Love Sheree x

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