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.

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.

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.

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.

Iceland Insights

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I’ve been thinking of 2018. I’ve been making plans. The New Year will see me visiting Iceland again for a few days. I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. While on retreat in March in Pingeryi, I briefly got to witness some pale ivory lights by down the sea shore. Their movement was magical and sublime. I’m getting ready for more.

In preparation for the creative retreat planned for June, I’ve revisiting in January to complete the final touches also. As a means of getting me in the mood over Christmas, I’ve been creating an Iceland Oracle deck of cards through a course from Tara Leaver. These cards are linked in with #icelandinsights; a photo/ journal prompt challenge I’m running during the month of January.

I’ll be posting images and text each day during January 2018 on IG, Facebook, Twitter and here. And you are more than welcome to join me. Use the #icelandinsights and we’ll be able to find each other.

5 things …

#decemberreflections2017 day 13 – 5 things about me

1. I’m still in my pjs and dressing gown today. Just don’t give a hoot.
2. When I was about 8 or 9, I used to dress up like Miss Marple right down to the tasseled shoes.
3. I have a PhD in Creative Writing but don’t crow about it as the nasty people tried to take it away from me. But failed.
4. My favourite colour is red like my core, my inner wisdom, my soul.
5. I’m a Queen.

ten: four

1. The roof opposite holds the snow steady.
2. Our central heating blows out slow white smoke.
3. I don’t seem to be able to get warm.
4. I switch the Christmas lights on to create some cheer.
5. Slow is the pace for everything this morning.
6. Let me make peppermint tea and spend half an hour curled up with a book.
7. No school today even if we are up in time. To the doctor’s instead.
8. We slide along the street all bundled up.
9. We sit. Her small chubby hands small in mine.
10. Our deep brown eyes meet and smile.