The Beauty of Failing

Loch Lomond

Last week I attempted to walk the West Highland Way, again. And I failed again.

Around the mid point, well 52 miles in, I suffered an injury; a stress fracture in my right foot. It became too painful to continue. I was gutted.

After making the decision, I took my usual day to feel all the feels and then I got back up again. I switched this failure ( in terms of not completing the whole 96 miles) into a positive.

I walked along the byways and drovers roads and old railway tracks and had a great time being with nature. A week of forecast rain never materialised. The weather was bright and pleasant and welcome.

River Fallon

And the scenery was to die for. But I knew I couldn’t continue at the pace I was going. I had to weigh up the odds; continue to prove what? Or to stop and reduce further injury?

It also got to the point of no longer enjoying it. Because I was in pain and exhausted and feeling sorry for myself, I couldn’t enjoy the walking anymore. I couldn’t look up from the trail and breathe in the air and appreciate the view. My focus became the pain and how to get it to stop.

So I left the trail. Disappointed in myself but also proud of myself. I didn’t carry on seeking glory and jeopardising my body and the rest of my plans for the year and beyond. I took this hit of not reaching my goal in order to move through other goals easier or smoother.

I’ll not lie, I am upset about it. And had a funk about it. But at the same time, I appreciate the experience. I had such a lovely time waking up at the side of Loch Lomond with the last of the stars disappearing into a pinking sky over the glistening water. I felt blessed. And I still do feel this way to have had this opportunity of walking 52 miles from the lowlands to the Highlands of Scotland. Thank you.

Craig Royston

The Final 100 Days of Writing

My writing year hasn’t gone to plan.

At the back end of 2021, I put in for an Arts Council England, Developing Your Creative Practice grant. I didn’t get one but I made a promise to myself to follow the project plan I had to submit with this application for the first 6 months of 2022.

Things just didn’t go to plan from the very beginning of the year, with family illness and myself getting ill etc. I was knocked off course and never got back on during the year.

Until now. London Writer’s Salon ran a 100 Days of Writing Workshop last night. Then there was 100 days left of 2022. Where has the time gone?

I attended along with over 300 other people, working through the workbook to get recommitted to my Mixmoir. And it worked.

I’ve set myself some goals and targets for the final 100 days of writing for 2022. I figure, I can turn it out for others when I have to or need to, the recent BALTIC commission being a prime example. Well now I want to use this commitment to others and their demands to my own advantage and complete something that is important to me instead.

My goal is to complete the Mixmoir in the final 100 days of 2022. I figure it’s about 3 essays and about 15 poems I need to get it into a completed state by the end of 2022. And I might even place in the word ‘shitty’ first draft of the whole thing there too in order to ease the pressure off for perfection.

My guiding words for this process are fun and play and experimentation. I want to enjoy the process and I figure these values with help me a lot with this task.

I’ve been wanting to write this Mixmoir now for about 5 years and I think I’ve just been taking it and myself far too seriously. So I’m inviting in the fun and joy and excitement about the project again.

And I’ve got the last 100 days of 2022 to crack on with it. And these final days of the year are not empty. I’ve got plenty of outside commitments, family responsibilities and travel plans to keep me busy. But this might be the kick up the arse I need to just finish the damn thing.

This Mixmoir is an important step in establishing myself as an expert in the field of Black Nature. I want to use this text as the basis of the Earth Sea Live CIC business. As a speaker and facilitator and expedition leader. But it’s doing nothing to further the cause if it’s not finished or published yet.

So here I am biting the bullet, getting my head down and ploughing on through.

No hold up! I said fun and play and experimentation in order to enjoy the process.

So my shoulders are back, my head is facing the light and I’m skipping off into writing pleasureland for the final 100 days of 2022.

Let’s see what I create.

A Week of Rain is Forecast

Starting off Sunday next week, I plan to walk the West Highland Way, a well signposted trail from just north of Glasgow, Milngavie to the Highlands of Scotland, Fort William.

I tried to walk this trail about 8 years ago but failed at the mid point due to sickness. So this time, I plan to complete it by any means necessary. If that means someone else carries my bag with camping gear from one stop to the next then so be it. I’m not too proud to accept help.

But I’ve just checked the weather for next week. And apart from a sun shine sign on Sunday, the rest of the week is 50-60% rain each day. Every day until the following weekend.

Now I could let this put a dampener on the whole walk, pun intended. Or I could just carry on as I have been carrying on, full of excitement with a genuine positive mindset to complete the miles but to enjoy the process.

I’m going into this week of walking, shortest day 10 miles – longest day 21 miles, coming off the back of some good learning experiences which I want to bring to bear in this next challenge.

The first is my 100 days of practice to complete my commission for the BALTIC Hinterlands exhibition due to go live 22 October. I didn’t allow myself to get too far into my head, stress and worry about what I was creating. Instead, I really enjoyed the process of showing up each day and seeing what came out of it. I totally enjoyed the process and had fun.

The second is my recent completion of the Great North Run. I went into this event off the back of very little training and with the simple mission of completing the 13.1 miles by any means necessary. But I didn’t look upon it as something I had to get through, grin and bear it. No. I went into this endurance event with a healthy positive mental attitude. I wanted to enjoy the day. Get around with a smile on my face, really soaking up the atmosphere of the day.

These two learning experiences I will bring to my West Highland Way challenge. So it says it’s going to be rain for the whole week. I’m going to get wet. I’ll expect to get wet. No surprises then. So the flip side is when I see the sun, or glimpse a patch of blue sky, I’m going to feel gratitude and it’s going to put a spring in my step.

I’m prepared for the rain but if I get sunshine I’ll take it with a smile. I’m not going to cancel this trip I’ve been planning for months because of a spot of wetness. I’m going to get wet as I plan to get into the lochs along the way. I’m planning to take each mile as it comes and enjoy the journey. Rain or shine. I’m doing it.

Yes I’ll get wet. Yes I’ll be cold. Yes I might not dry out all week. But I’ll be out in the Scottish landscape soaking it all up.

Would I like more sunshine? Of course I would. Would I like to be stuck inside, head buried into a computer screen working for the man? Hell no. Give me a week of walking in the rain from the Lowlands to the Highlands of Scotland and I will gladly take it with a smile on my face.

When I took up a door to door sales jobwhile at University in London for extra cash, rain was sold to us sale reps. as “liquid sunshine”. I’m going to remember that as I trek through the miles.

Tune in and see how I get on next week.

Leaning into the season

This woman likes to wear her secret,

taste tart stars along the evening’s edge.

She be breath, she be mild roughness

all sharpness fading in time.

 

I’m loving the season, getting out and walking in the crisp morning air. Loving it. Expect to see more berries on these pages. Until then I share my berry ripeness.

Fiery Autumn Love

“The woman who is willing to make that change must become pregnant with herself, at last. She must bear herself, her third self, her old age.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

I love Autumn. I always have but it’s just now, in the last few years, that I’ve really embraced this love. Confessed this love to anyone who would listen. Maybe it’s because I was born during this season. Maybe it’s the feeling of beginnings I have for the season with the return to school. Or maybe it’s the array of fiery colours.

There is something about the light during this season which touches my soul and brings me hope with a tinge of sorrow. Each year, during this season, we used to travel to Barcelona for a week or so. And there, the light at this time of year, is even more pronounced. The nights are drawing in and the temperatures are lowering but when you get that light, that golden, warm light during an Autumn day, well the world doesn’t seem such an awful place. You can see and appreciate its beauty.

Many moons ago, I created a writing retreat in the mountains surrounding Rome, Italy, taking inspiration from the changing seasons within the landscape. The landscape’s on the change during Autumn and I wanted to explore this through creative means with others hence the retreat amongst the olive groves and rich colourful berries. Again there was a certain kind of light that would progress down the mountain through the day and rest into the evening with a creamy glow.

There’s hope during this season but also a necessity of letting go. We see this with the falling leaves, the flowers drooping , turning brown and crumpling into dust at the touch of a hand. There’s the ending of growth, death even, to make room for the next stage of development and growth and life.

I’m entering ( or could I already be there?) the Autumn of my life. In all honesty, I have been for the last few years. Since the pandemic, if not before, when there has been a great shedding of things, people, relationships, and responsibilities. I refuse to carry on, carrying the burdens of the world on my shoulders, trying to do it all instead of acknowledging the changes and entering this next phase of my life with grace.

This is what I’ll be exploring during this Autumn season. The beauty and grace and changes of the season. Within nature but also within myself. During Autumn, there’s a letting go, a surrender to what is, letting go of what was and a tenderness as there’s a slow progression into the next phase.

I’m not turning my back on my ageing process but I’m probably grieving the loss of youth, attention and usefulness. But this is the time, in that golden light, to embrace my condition of changing woman. Greet the transformations that are happening inside and outside of me with love. Like my love for Autumn. Autumn is here. She is beautiful and fiery. And definitely not silent.

Summer Loving

It’s been a short sharp second they’re since I’ve been here.

I’ve been enjoying the fruits of summer. The long hot days and nights. The light. The carefree feeling that a summer breeze brings. Being off the clock and not having to worry about the time.

I’ve also been busy working on the BALTIC commission and really enjoying the process. I’m loving seeing ideas come to fruition.

But this time can’t last forever. I know season’s change but so learning to live in the present with gratitude and grace.

Stand Still and Rest

Llyn Ogwen, Capel Curig, Snowdonia

I’m in North Wales. On a swimming residency. The heat and crowds have been killing me though.

Planning to keep cool with water. Inside and out. But the scenery here is amazing. There’s an ancient vibe to the place. I really get the felling that these mountains have been here for centuries and will be here long after I’ve gone.

There’s a timelessness about mountains which force me to step off the busyness and into the calm and collected stance of stillness.

Just like a mountain. Over the next few weeks, as we ease into the summer holidays, I’ll be here in fits and starts. Not putting any pressure on myself to produce as I’m tired.

I’m tired and need to fall back in love with creativity. And I also need something to say. So enjoy the summer and maybe see you back here. But if not over the summer, see you in Autumn.

Soon come.