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.

Getting Angry

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Last night I got angry and I mean really angry. I think I might have scared @hazmatt72.

This was a different anger to any I’ve experienced before. No I tell a lie. I think I might have had a glimmer of this deep visceral anger back in 2014 when I was organising #blacklivesmatter events and I was finding my political voice and going public with my thoughts about race.

And then I was silenced and all that anger turned inward. Turned against myself and how stupid I’d been and the mistakes I made. Anger turned up so high that I almost didn’t hear the whisper of self-compassion, forgiveness and love.

Fast forward to last night, the anger has shifted from focusing on myself to sending fierce fire balls out there.

I recently became a member of @secretmessagesociety ( or am I supposed to keep it a secret?!?) and my first Zine talked about developing a back bone. To start putting myself at the centre of my life and everything/ everyone else out there, outside of me is ‘the other’.

At the mention of ‘the other’ I had a gut reaction. A recoiling. As a black woman in colonial, imperial, patriarchal, hey (wo)man, in any kind of discourse, I ‘m labelled/ perceived/ treated as ‘the other’. And even though I have argued against this, this didn’t stop me internalising it. Taking on the label myself and seeing myself as ‘the other’ in comparison to the white norm.

Coming across ‘the other’ @secretmessagesociety, something shifted and was dislodged to the point that I’ve de-centred my whole belief, operating system. I no longer claim ‘the other’ as me, my label, my positioning out there and within me.
No. I’m right bang centre in my life, in my identity and everything outside of me is ‘the other.’ I’m no longer kept in the margins, the minority, the freak, the fat ugly black bitch, the deformed, the other.
I’m so gloriously centred with me/ within me.

And I’m angry. But a shimmering healthy get things sorted, changed sort of angry. Which always flows from love. #iaintsorry #hellno #fuckem #angryblackwoman #othering #decentre #takingbackwhatsmine #practice #process #patience #self-love #self-care #secretmessagesociety #gettingmesomebackbone

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.

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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Artists’ Residencies

While coming to the end of my first trip to Iceland, while relaxing after time at The Blue Lagoon realising that I wanted to return to my life back home with Grace, I made a promise to myself that I would return to Iceland. I had to return.

It was from this point onwards that I started to look at artists’ residencies. I had just spent a week touring the whole of Iceland, so I was looking to base myself in one place for the duration of a residency in order to give myself a different experience.

The only place I couldn’t get to this first time around was the Westfjords. I’m not sure if I did this on purpose so I’d have to return or because it was about 8 to 9 hours drive to get there from Reykjavik off the Ring Road. This gave me a good enough reason to return as well as to fix my sights on a retreat in the Westfjords.

Through my research I found The Westfjords Residency.
“We seek to create encounters between nature and man, foreigner and local, the remote and the connected.“
A Danish-Belgian couple came to Thingeyri in 2005, started to rebuild an old, historic house into a coffeehouse called “Simbahöllin” in 2009. They then went on to create a cultural space with the Residency program being part of this. They offer group residencies that can be applied for but also self-directed individual residencies.

Before I worked out what I really wanted to do with my time in the Westfjords, I put in an application asking for a two week stay in winter 2017. I knew I had to immerse myself in the landscape of Iceland more, to explore this curious relationship and connection I had formed with this place. Basing myself in a remote and isolated fishing village was the ideal situation to do so.

I look back now at the time I spent in the Westfjords, while still in Iceland but this time in the south, and I wonder what happened then. What did I do with my time out there? What did I achieve, if anything?

I could judge this endeavour along productivity lines. I could judge it by the all-doing, all- going and all-singing-and-dancing routine that are the external markers of today’s society. It’s how we function.

But that would be missing the point. A residency or retreat, for that matter, is about the time and space away from the everyday not doing the usual. An opportunity to settle deeper into the self. It’s a chance to take your foot off the accelerator and to press on the brakes, gently. Allowing yourself to come to a complete stop and just be.

Breathe, deep breaths not the shallow sharp ones that you’ve been getting by on for years. But really deep juicy breaths that fill you up with wonder and awe and reignite you again from the core, from your true self.

Taking my cues from this definition of a residency then my time spent in the Westfjords was time well spent. I look forward to repeating the experience.

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.

ten: five

1. A grey morning.
2. That heavy feeling when you should get up but don’t want to.
3. The canned background noise of joy.
4. Big meaty raindrops on the bedroom window.
5. Icy air creaking in under doors and between boards.
6. The bitter taste of resentment.
7. The overwhelming feeling that this too will pass.
8. There’s no need to be afraid of death, he said.
9. I pull the duvet up and over.
10. My shower can wait.