I didn’t set out into 2020 with a reading goal. I didn’t set any numbers but I did say I wanted to read more. Vague I know. And not the ‘proper’ way to set goals that you want to succeed at but at the time it was enough for me. And it’s been working.
January saw me curled up with actual books and the iPad sporting the kindle a lot more times than I felt I did at the back end of 2019. Could I say the whole of 2019? I’m not sure. Maybe my memory fails me here.
But the reading habit, the muscle memory of turning off all distractions and getting lost in a good book, fiction, non-fiction even poetry, seems weak in relation to the last couple of years to be honest.
Hopefully, with January now behind us, I can say that the drought is over as I hurtled through a number of books this month. I’m pretty proud of my numbers but also about how expanded I feel in terms of ideas and language and joy. The joy of reading has paid a long overdue visit and I want it to continue. So look forward to a monthly round up of books read each month. You might even find a book you’re interested in reading along the way.
I’ll list the books read and then give a review or details about just one of the books, as if I did it for all of them read this month, we’ll be here all day and come on, it’s the weekend.
Completed January books include:
1. Eat and Run- My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness – Scott Jurek ( started in December and completed at the beginning of January)
2. Turned Out Nice Again– One Living with the Weather– Richard Mabey
3. Heavenfield – LJ Ross
4. Angel – LJ Ross
5. High Force – LJ Ross
6. Cragside – LJ Ross
7. Dark Skies – LJ Ross
8. Seven Bridges – LJ Ross
Ongoing January reading include;
1. The Last Wolf – Jim Crumley
2. Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
3. Coastlines: The Story of Our Shore – Patrick Barkham
4. Blogging Basics For Authors – Nina Amir
Book review in the next post. Thanks.
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.
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
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.
Two columns of huts.
Fish lynched on nails.
Thick flesh dries deep.
Perhaps he brings home a big catch. Much bigger than they could ever eat in a week, this family of five. Perhaps, he hangs up the surplus in his shed. Sliced in two lengthwise, nailed by the tail, or maybe where the head should be, flesh juicy to the sun, while he thinks what to do with so many fish and so few mouths.
Perhaps, in time he forgets about this problem. Only catching a whiff of fish sometimes when the wind blows in from the west. Remembering he needs to sort them out some way or another.
Perhaps, it is his firstborn who ventures in drawn by the smell as well as the cracking like ice sound. Now the fish is dry and hard as rock. Fallen from the nails they crack into many pieces like candy.
Perhaps, this child tastes a piece and falls in love in this moment with dried fish forever. There’s a sweetness and saltiness as it melts in his mouth. He’s dreaming of butter and garlic and smoky paprika and the sea.
To say that the aim of this residency is to not engage in any artistic activities from September to December inclusive, I would have to confess that things are not going to plan.
I’m finding that making something, doing something creative; be it cooking a meal, baking, knitting, reading about art, playing with paints, these little moments of colour in my day are my highlights. These moments of play energise me, bring me back to me and how I want to spend my time.
I suppose I’m not learning anything new from undertaking this residency. I always knew that creativity was my life force. I suppose it is only reinforcing my self-knowledge.
I know I devised this residency to ease the pressure off myself, while having to work full-time. But I’m finding that these moments of creativity are what gives me the strength and energy to carry on with the full-time work. Without these pockets of colour and joy my life would be grey and nothing. I would be so unhappy and lost that I would worry how to carry on.
I know frustrations are creeping in as I wish I had more than just pockets of time to devote to my creativity and future projects. But I’m allowing myself the space to rest and dream. Not pushing myself but also not denying myself the time to plan and imagine.
So things have started with my self-imposed residency of being an artist on hiatus. The aim is not to engage in anything creative. To try and not feed my artistic tendencies but to focus all my attentions on my paid work and not my creative work.I am finding this residency difficult as I realise I need colour in my life daily in order to live. In order to get out of bed and feel alive, I need colour within my life. It is my buzz. So deciding to wear a different coloured nail varnish each week to work is I think exercising my creative gene ever so slightly.
This colour fix is also evident within my work planner. So that every day is not a dull day, I pre-prepared each page within my planner with paint, with colour and inspirating images. I did this so that even if I am locked into the system, working 9 til 5, I can still dream, I can still scratch my creative itch.
All this sounds as if I’m not trying in this hiatus residency. But really I am. But at the same time, I am finding out more and more about what makes me tick, what makes me happy, what makes me, me. And I’m okay with that, with this residency. I am taking each day as it comes, and I know I am happy in what I am doing each day. So I am going to continue as I am doing.
‘Let’s feel what the Massa sees in you,’
like a snake’s belly on hard sand.
He takes me in.
His rough stubble tears at my thighs,
as greedy palms, with raised moons,
kneed my belly. His smell is
stale sweat mingled with
the heavy wet perfume of dirt
turned over with my hoe.
His high shiny leather riding
boots are still on.
from: The White of the Moon (2007-8)