December

I’m happy to see this month come around even though I can’t believe that we’re hurtling towards Christmas and the New Year . Where has this year gone?

I’m glad to see the back of November after far too many visits and hours spent in hospitals and doctor’s surgeries.

We might be moving toward the shortest day of the year, but I’m feeling the light in more ways than one.

New moon on Tuesday and my intentions are already set. To shift my energy, my outlook, my state of mind through going deeper into my practice.

I’ve been in my retreat cave for a few months now, withdrawn from IG and Facebook for months. But it’s only now as we turn towards the dark further, do I feel more unhinged and released from the public realm and demands.

I mixed colours today; went through a 40+ box of acrylic paints, mixing them with white gesso to create new, more muted tones. And I’ll not lie, I was singing to the little paint pots I created. This simple act fed my soul. I was so grateful for colour. I could have stayed there all day just mixing and enjoying the colours that came to fruition.

I can’t wait to make some swatches of them as well as start painting with them. Using them each day this month is my plan as a means of deepening into my practice and retreating further into my cave.

Have you set any intentions for the coming circle of the moon? For the last few days of 2019? Please share if you have.

The Healing Properties of the Sea

My task today is to write a love letter to the body of water that has sustained me, healed me, and nurtured me.

This has to be the North Sea as it has been on my doorstep for decades, even if, I’ve just come to appreciate it more in last 10 years.

A couple of years ago, I came up with the title, ‘The Healing Properties of the Seas‘ for a project involving water. It was basically 10 second videos of bodies of water. On a website for everyone to enjoy. Accompanying this would be a symposium, interviews with me talking to other people about their connection to water etc. There would be an open submission for people around the world to share their 10 second clips of bodies of water.

I have hundreds of 10 second clicks of the North Sea and other waters and I feel I don’t appreciate water enough. The planet’s water enough. I’m fixing to change this and hopefully get, ‘The Healing Properties of Water‘, off the ground. Are you with me?

Longsands, Tynemouth, UK

Day 2 – 100 Days of The Goddess and Love

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Posted Instagram today : 2/100 – Private Farm, Brattleby, Lincolnshire
I wrote in my morning pages today: I want to be debt free in so many meanings of the word. I want to be able to eat and eat healthily. I want to be able to love my body now. Love how my body serves me now so I no longer abuse her and I’m not waiting for the weight to drop off before I love her. #100daysofthegoddessandlove #100daysproject #the100dayproject #blackwomenmatter #blackwomensbodies #selfcare #selflove #healthyatanysize #creativepractice #blackbodiesinnature #brownbodiesinnature #womenscreativity #womensempowerment #instax90 #instaxmini90neoclassic #photography #bodylove #goldengoddess #darkgoddess #mothernature #earthgoddess #goddess

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.

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.

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.

Olwen Wilson

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When you find someone in your life who encourages you to hold onto your dream, who supports you in making it a reality, you have to honour them. You have to welcome them into your life and give thanks for their presence.

One such person in my life is Olwen Wilson. Olwen has gently supported me in bringing our Iceland Creative Retreat to fruition. Olwen has not only been a cheerleader but she is also offering her skills to the retreat. I thank you.

Let me introduce you to Olwen.

1. Tell us something about yourself

I’m Olwen (pronounced All-wen) Wilson. I’m an intuitive healing guide, secret keeper, advocate and fierce mama bear. I’m also a yoga teacher, Reiki master and I teach English as a second language to children.

The loves of my life are my husband and our seven-year-old son. My fur babies include two rescue cats that quickly claimed our family as their own.

I love getting out in the fresh air, being creative and learning new things. In the past year alone, I’ve given hand thrown pottery a try (I get an arm workout every time I pick up the mug I made), I made some recycled metal earrings, did some beading and needle felting, and learned to crochet (guess what my lucky family got as Christmas presents). But I’m also the happiest hibernating in our home because it’s the best way for me to recharge.

You can learn even more about me over on my website echorootswellness.com.

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

Connection. Funny enough for this introvert (who can put in the effort to be an extrovert when I want to but will need to have a lot of down time to recover) I would never have thought that connection would be one of my biggest motivators.

Caroline Reynolds wrote in her book Spiritual Fitness, “Whenever we are forced into a situation where we cannot express ourselves honestly we suffer from what I call non-alignment fatigue. It occurs whenever you can’t express your natural exuberance, quietness, optimism or sadness in any situation.”

When I first read this, my world started to make more sense. She expressed how I had been feeling for years and why I originally thought that I was not a people person. I knew I definitely wasn’t a people pleaser (I enjoy being an instigator at times), but I still secretly wanted to be liked, so I acted in ways that were exhausting to me. And I also found myself swinging to the opposite end of the spectrum and purposely closing myself off as a way to protect myself.

It also helped me realize that perhaps I had been putting myself into situations that weren’t ideal. I tried to make friends or stayed friends with people who were nice enough, but they simply weren’t my people. I felt drained in those situations and relationships.

What I try to do instead now is seek out connections that bring me joy, get me excited and challenge me for the better. I consider myself lucky that I have a few great people in my inner circle who I don’t feel I need to be anything other than myself when I’m around them.

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

Integrity is sexy and honesty is always the best answer. Apathy is a killer.

4. What was the best advice you’ve received?

You are your best advocate. I first learned this when I was dealing with a medical issue, but it’s served me well in other areas of my life too.

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

It’s whatever, and wherever, she chooses it to be. She will potentially shift and morph her place/position over time, but it’s important that she has ownership over her choices. That’s my ideal.

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

I tune into it often and give thanks. Mainly because it helps me ground and since the land (earth) is supporting me, I check in to see what I can offer, or do, to create or keep some balance in our relationship.

Over the last few years, I’ve been getting to know my local trees, herbs and plants better. There’s so much to learn, but it’s been an empowering journey understanding how they communicate, their role in our ecosystem and how they may strengthen my health and support my family’s wellbeing. Knowing how to make my own tinctures, teas, infusions and bitters feels like I’ve been given the key to so much wisdom and I’m eager to know more.

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

I’m looking forward to EVERYTHING!!

I can’t wait to put my feet in the dirt and black sand, get splashed by a waterfall, get my hands covered in paint, explore my inner thoughts and feelings and enjoy time in this magical land around the summer solstice. Having a chance to spend some time with other women who want the same is a bonus.

Visiting Iceland has been a dream of mine for a long while now. Your (Sheree’s) posts on Instagram about your travels to the country made me even more curious about it. When you first announced that you were thinking about offering a retreat in Iceland I knew (in my heart) that I was going.

We met two years ago when we were both chosen to be community leaders in one of Mara Glatzel’s Facebook groups. I admired your words of wisdom and your honesty in all of your posts and comments. It didn’t take long for me to become a fan of yours and it was so easy to say “yes” when you decided to offer this retreat.

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

My intention is to offer yoga sessions that include asana (yoga postures and poses), breath work and meditation to help you cultivate self-awareness. The focus will be on simple, yet effective, things you can do to feel better, and be more connected to your body and breath.

I’m a certified Curvy Yoga Teacher too so everything I offer will be accessible for all shapes, all sizes and all abilities. Plus, everything is optional… you always have a choice.

The biggest compliment that I ever received was from a student who said she felt like I would be totally fine if she just wanted to hang out in savasana (corpse pose) for the entire time and listen to my voice. And I would! If that’s what she felt was best for her during our time together, I would have been delighted to offer her a safe space for her to take care of her needs.

My goal as a teacher is to offer sessions where you feel cared for, challenged, and help you learn how to honour your body at any given moment.

I expect to include some Reiki, restorative yoga, yoga nidra (yogic sleep), as well as some massage techniques that will help soothe any muscles that you may have newly discovered after one of our more active sessions.

The best thing I can say about what I’ll offer is that no previous experience is necessary. You don’t need a fancy wardrobe. Simply wear clothing you’re comfortable moving in and bring your curiosity.

9. Anything you’d like to add?

Is it June yet? I may be a wee bit excited for your retreat.