A 6.30am alarm wakes me. On a Sunday. And the gadget, a smart watch, ringing the alarm is somewhere on a desk somewhere hidden in a dark cold hotel room.
I stumble out of bed blind and unsteady, hand and arms outstretched in front of me, combing the black air, trying to touch something soild. Trying to stop the incessant noise.
I was brought up to fear the dark. It didn’t take my small imagination much to conjure up monsters under the bed and ghosts on landings. Lying perfectly still in my bunk bed pretending to be dead already, the dark dug deep into my psyche so that I grew up fearing my own reflection.
When I’m not watching my weight (come on, when am I not watching my weight?) I enjoy an extra cold pint of Guinness with a shot of blackcurrant to cut through the bitterness. A drink of pure iron. Thick like treacle, it works well as a lining on my stomach before multiple rounds of alcoholic concoctions follow. Who knows? Who cares? But as long as my core swims deep with the dark stuff I’m ready for anything.
On our living room wall in our maisonette flat in Bradford where I grew up, we had a velvet scroll depicting two islands. The land was made up of bright green stitched thread. The towns and villages were named in golden thread. Bright red blazed across the top, ‘The Islands of Trinidad and Tobago.’ I’m not sure if we were ever told but our dad came from those islands. It was a silent fact. I liked to touch the thread, when I got the chance. The stitching was tight and taut. My eyes, though, were pulled into the expansive black crushed velvet Caribbean Sea wondering how he survived the swim over to the U.K.
I thought these smart gadgets were supposed to make your life easier. Why wasn’t it flashing neon green, or red even, at the same time as sounding an alarm, giving me some clue as to it’s whereabouts? I felt I could have done better with my eyes shut. But I’ve been living that way for far too long. Now with eyes wide open to the dark, I’ve become wise to the tricks of history. I’m woke.
Today I started a new project which I’ve been putting on the back burner. A project which @beyourownbeloved hosted by @viviennemcm helped me remember. I think I was spending too much time and energy on talking myself out of it instead on it. As Elizabeth Gilbert wrote, ‘You don’t need a permission slip to be an artist.’ #blackandwhitestudies #beyourownbeloved #selfportrait #selfportraitureasmedicine #blackartist #blackwomenrock #selfcare #selflove #selfcompassion #creativepractice #power
Do you wanna know a secret?
Yes I thought that might get your attention. I’m willing to share my dirty little secret if you’re willing to listen?
Okay. Here goes.
I love Nordic Noir. There. It’s out now and I feel a whole heap better.
When I want to chill and relax and switch off, I switch on a Scandinavian crime drama or pick up a novel in the same genre.
There’s something about the landscapes that act as a backdrop for the crime, usually a grizzly murder, that holds my attention and enchants me. I know. Sick right! All these people getting bumped off and there’s blood and guts everywhere and I’m mesmerised by the ice and snow and the mountains that set the scene.
This genre is quality storytelling as well and solid characterisation and suspense and tension too.
I can binge watch a whole series or read a whole book in a evening ( and into early morning) when I get into a certain groove and I’m not ashamed to tell you. At the moment I’ve been making my way through Walter Presents series on All 4. Last night was Rebecka Martinsson: Arctic Murders. A Stockholm lawyer who returns to her hometown after a childhood friend’s death. And isn’t her home town remote, icy and full is lakes and mountains? Beautiful.
I know it’s pure escapism but from time to time it’s good for me, or anyone really, to suspend reality and slip into another, usually distant from the norm, world. I do believe it supports me in my day to day living and striving and thriving. A little sanctuary of make believe. I highly recommend it, I do.
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 day dawns bright after the rain. It’s an opportunity not to be missed. Now we’re into October, how many days like this will we get to enjoy.
The man with his two dogs says it’s 4 degrees. I ask him, the air or the sea as we grin like school kids on an outing to the seaside.
The temperature of the air. The sea is much colder, it’s bitterly cold. He says.
And I agree as I take to the sea and the waves crash in and recede with a dragging undertow. No chance of swimming today. Too wild. But I’m fine just jumping waves and squealing. I get all childish with the sea. All inhibitions go out the window and pure joy takes up space in my whole being.
5-10 minutes of jumping and waves bursting over my head and I’m ready to meet my day
Work in Progress
In 2015, when the shit hit the fan, I had to change. My whole life was in tatters and I had to find a way to live again. But live on my own terms. Live true to my soul.
For decades I’d been on the production trail. Do do do. Produce produce produce. Because I’d eventually I’d get to the promised land. I’d be successful, famous and accepted.
What I know now from having to start over is that there is no end point. There’s only the journey. I’m in a constant state of becoming. Becoming a better version of myself. But I will never be complete or perfect because that state just doesn’t exist. It’s a fallacy we’re fed to keep us keeping on. The desire or promise keeps us working with our heads down, selling out our souls for very little rewards. We think we are living the life we want to live but really, we’re living the life ‘they’ want us to live. The system, that is.
Now, I’m happy with less. Happy to work small. Happy with little ripples I create because I know in my heart that this is the authentic me at work. I know now, what I do, I do from the heart. I do in service to others with no expectations or need for anything in return. Living my life on my terms is my reward. And that’s enough. I’m enough just being me.
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.
It’s difficult to pin down my one and only favourite quote as I love so many. I use quotes as inspiration, as thought points, as guides.
At the beginning of each Studio Note I send out to subscribers, I include a quote, to set the tone, to ease into the topic of discussion.
Toni Morrison is always a favourite writer I quote because it was her book, The Bluest Eye, where I first found myself in literature. Before that, I always had to identify with the white female lead in the story. I found myself wishing I was something I was not; white, blond and blue eyed. In The Bluest Eye, I found myself, a little black girl growing up in a cruel, racist world, thinking if only she was white, then she’d be loved.
My quote isn’t from The Bluest Eye this time but it does touch upon this topic of self-love; my focus this year as my word is LOVE for 2019.
“In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out. No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ’cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed. What you scream from it they do not hear. What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give you leavins instead. No, they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it. This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And O my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. and all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver–love it, love it and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize.”
Toni Morrison, Beloved