January Reading

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 AgainOne 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.

The Weekend

It’s been a busy weekend. I’m not sure if it was planned that way or if it just creeped up on us. But it was definitely a family kind of time. And as I start getting ready for turning in with a good book ( more to say here as I share my reading for the month soon), I do so with a contented smile on my face.

For the last few months, the weekend has come and gone with nothing to show for it. Yes this is prime time to rest and recover from the week. But it is also important time to reconnect with those closest to me. My peeps. And this can be done inside or outside the house. The important thing is to make the time. And to be honest, we haven’t been making the time.

I feel the difference, now at Sunday night, of enjoying a weekend where we have made time for each other. We’ve been to a basketball match as a family. Met up with friends for rollerblading. Went on an evening excursion to look at the dark skies. It was cloudy though but still a learning experience. And then today, having granddad round for dinner, was the best way to round it all off.

We’re not made of money and probably couldn’t do all these activities every weekend. But it wasn’t so much about what we did or where we went. It was all about spending time with each other.

I’m grateful for what we did this weekend as well as how we were. Doing and being together has set me up for the week ahead with a smile in my heart.

The Goddess Series is going on show!

I recently got this photograph from the #100daysofthegoddessandlove series enlarged and printed onto photo board.

I sat for a few days with her in my living room exhibited on a black metal easel. I would sit and just look at her. I would say to anyone passing, I made that. I was blown away by how beautiful my work looked. And it didn’t bother me if no one else loved it/ her it was enough that I did. I’m proud of my creation. I look at her and smile. I feel a deep swell of love for her. But really it’s for myself and my achievements. I don’t need anyone else to tell me I’m ‘doing good’. External validation is not sort or needed.

I didn’t make this physical piece of art to sit in my sitting room though. I’m preparing for an exhibition of prints; prints of the Goddess.

I’ve been invited to exhibit this series at a special fund raising event for a charity which is close to my heart, with which I’ve been developing a relationship with over the last couple of years.

The Angelou Centre, Newcastle, is a unique Black-led space dedicated to supporting and uplifting Black, Asian and ethnic minority women across the North East region of England. This centre offers a holistic approach to improving the lives of these women, some who are very vulnerable and are suffering. At a national level, the Angelou Centre strives to make sure these women’s voices are represented and heard, especially in relation to the issues that they face every day.

The Angelou Centre is celebrating 25 years this year and are organising an inspiring fund raising event to mark the occasion. It seems fitting that the Goddess should make an appearance at this special event because she is so very good at teaching myself and others what it really means to love and care for ourselves. There will be music and dancing, food and spoken word. I will be performing my poetry and reciting ‘Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou. Such an honour.

I’m looking forward to the event but also nervous as I will be exposed in more ways than one on the evening. But I know in my gut that I’m so ready for this.

Friday 25 October, at the Grand Hotel, Gosforth Park. More details can be found here. See if you can come along. It’s for a great cause.

Bitterly cold but fun

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

Art Journal Play

When things get overwhelming, I take to colour. I think this is the reason I love Autumn so much. The myriad of colours; crimson, pumpkin, golden and umber. See what I did there? I elevated my vocabulary as sometimes I can be lazy and just use the obvious.

Anyhow. Back to the colour fields. Playing with colour fills my pot. Shifts my energy. And makes me happy. A simple task but well worth the effort.

Lately, I’ve started new journals. Square journals. Altered books. Notebooks. Any blank page I can fill with colour I will. I share some of the results here to inspire you to play. To let go and just lose yourself in the process. Forget the result. Forget perfection. And surrender to the joy of play.

A commitment to me

I’m going through my days pissed off. Wasting my time comparing myself to others and their success and finding myself wanting. Maybe I’m coming down after a high. Maybe I’m burnt out after the summer’s ups and downs.

What I do know is that when I get like this, and it’s nothing new, I have to withdraw and focus on me. Make self-care top of the list. Self-care for me includes creativity. It’s also about trying to find the balance between going into my cave and staying visible, sharing my work.

There’s a part of me that wonders what kind of work I’d produce if no one was watching. If I kept every brush stroke and every word to myself. What would I create.

I’m taking Painting the Feminine again this year with Connie Solera. This time last year an anonymous lady gifted me a space on the course for which I’m eternally grateful. This year, not dripping in money but we have enough to pay for this course as I know it’s nectar for my soul. This year, I plan to keep my creations to myself until the student exhibition at the end as an experiment to see how I do create in private.

Over here, I’m launching a new project around walking. Flaneur/ Flaneuse as a concept has been with me for years, the act of walking in the city, aimlessly observing life. I plan to walk for the next 30 days, take an image and accompany this with some text. I refer back to my commitment to self-care. Walking is another life source for me along with nature and the sea. Walking makes me feel expansive and positive and unbreakable.

More to follow as the 30 days unfold.

Anyway each day, gonna post my adventures here as a means of keeping me accountable as well as getting me to blog more too. Win-win.

Moving Foward

Over the weekend, I attended a Wretched of the Earth gathering in London focusing on #climatejustice, billed as Building Our Power. This was a first for me to attend such an event; where I knew the majority of participants would be black, brown and indigenous people as well as gathered together to discuss the climate crisis. I didn’t know what to expect but I was excited about the prospect as far too long I’ve been the only black face in the room when talking about the natural world, the environment and conservation.

The event didn’t disappoint. It was such an amazing and inspiring space to be part of as everything was being co-created; the values and actions, the tactics and strategies of the movement moving forward. What struck me and what I take away with me and move forward with is the way that the climate debate is framed within Western society is wrong and misleading. There has been growing concern for endangered species and the melting icecaps and how we can make a change through recycling and other such individual measures. Yet this narrative keeps hidden the major causes of climate change along with the pain and suffering that has been experienced for decades within the Global South because of such.

Climate Justice is about re-writing the narrative and exposing the inequalities and injustices that have been going on for the last 500 years through colonialism, imperialism and capitalism. This climate emergency cannot be divorced from other issues such as housing, crime, poverty and racism. we enjoy a privileged standard of living in the West because communities and people in the south suffer, be that through being used as cheap labour or have their homes and livelihoods decimated due to extractions industries and drought.

There is so much to be learned around these issues which I’m motivated to explore and share. The creative non-fiction memoir of mixed genres which I’ve been writing this year centres about a black woman’s body with/in nature, I envision to take on a more climate justice stance as I continue to champion how nature has helped me heal and how we, humanity, need to heal through our re-connection with nature.

A month in ( nearly) of the new 100 day project and this is what I want

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At the beginning of August I started my third and final #100daysproject of 2019.
I started 2019, painting 100, A3 sized abstracts. Then come April when the official #the100dayproject took place, I jumped on board with painting and drawing Black women’s faces and bodies. I’ve found these practices challenging at times, especially when I’ve been traveling and had a shortage of time. But the flip side has been such a overflowing pot of creativity which has had a knock on effect with my writing and general outlook. 
Now nearly 30 days into photographing my golden goddess statue, I‘m figuring out how this practice works in anchoring as well as inspiring me. 
With these 100 days, I‘m carrying my beautiful goddess statue out into nature and taking instant photographs of her there. I’m using her as a surrogate for my own body in nature. She takes up space so confidently and with such a ‘don’t care less’ attitude, that her essence is rubbing off onto me. 
How she behaves and holds herself is how I want to behave all the time when I’m out there in society, hustling and getting by. I want to have her self-confidence and self-awareness and magnitude. She is badass but so gracious with it. To have what she has, to be so in love with self and grateful for it is how I want to live my life. 
Hopefully, from the practice and folllowing the goddess‘s lead, I could get there, well slightly there, over the next 100 days.
We’ll see.

Best of the Net 2019

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While away from here, I received some good news that really reaffirmed my decision to pick up the pen again and write the way I want to write.
The lovely Annest Gwilym over at Nine Muses Poetry has nominated one of my poems for Best of the Net 2019 award.
Check out the poem which has been nominated ‘The Last Black Women’ here.
And I’m not fake bragging here but I’m just honoured to be nominated as this was unexpected and Annest had over 400 poems to choose from to come up with a short list of just 6 poems.
This nomination means such a great deal as there was a time that I wasn’t going to write, submit or share my writing again. I’m glad I decided to reverse this decision because all I was doing was denying myself a whole heap of healing and pleasure by not creating. I’m grateful for this recognition.