Loosening The Bounds

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.

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My Year of Deepening

tintype-577394653.781030While reading an email course I’d signed up to about community, there were links to the person’s website and courses. Before I knew it, I fell through the rabbit hole, following links and thinking of signing up to get another course which promised to support my quest in getting more in touch with my intuition.

Forget that, I probably couldn’t afford the course, the wonder and excitement juices were already flowing. The thrill of the new was taking over as I was pulling out the credit card. But wait. I took a step back. Backed off the ‘buy, buy, buy’ button and hit the breaks. What was I doing?

Buying another online course I wouldn’t finish? Spending money I didn’t have to spend? Fooling myself into thinking that this course held all the answers I was looking for?

All fantasy and stories we tell ourselves to justify the buy, the need and wish to accumulate yet another thing, I know off by heart. I don’t need width. I don’t need to buy another course, another book, another life. I need to focus and appreciate and dig deep into the things, the books, the skills, the course, the life I already have.

Around the beginning of the year, I’d heard about a #depthyear, but wasn’t sure what it was. I thought it was in connection with choosing a word for the year. But today, I found out what it means. The idea came about through an article by David Cain called ‘Go Deeper, Not Wider.’ Within it, Cain stresses a new tradition or intention of not starting any new hobbies, or buying any new things for a year but to revisit, reconnect, reuse the things he already had.

“No new hobbies, equipment, games, or books are allowed during this year. Instead, you have to find the value in what you already own or what you’ve already started.
You improve skills rather than learning new ones. You consume media you’ve already stockpiled instead of acquiring more.
The guiding philosophy is “Go deeper, not wider.” Drill down for value and enrichment instead of fanning out. You turn to the wealth of options already in your house, literally and figuratively. ”

In the age of consumerism, this is no easy task, as it’s habit to buy the newest gadgets and clothes. Value is placed on the new and the young rather than the used and the old. But what could be achieved and accomplished, if we just focused on what we had already and we took satisfaction and sustenance from that?

Subconsciously, I feel as if I have been going deeper through my #100dayprojects, first with abstract paintings and now with the black female portraits and figure paintings. Somewhere in my being, I felt the need to drill deeper into these practices in order to get better at them as well as to understand them. However, during the process, I’ve brought new art supplies and tools and books. I think this demonstrates a lack of trust in my own abilities by looking elsewhere for guidance and permission and inspiration.

All I need I have already. A lot of what I need is inside me to excavate, and if not then I can find the answers or further questions in the mountains of books and articles and courses I have accumulated over the years.

So take this post as the beginning of my year of deepening. Saturday 20 April, 2019.

By taking a whole year to go deeper instead of wider, I hope to develop a rich and joyful and carefully curated collection of interests, pursuits, skills and knowledge. I hope to reduce the power of newness and possessions has over me, in order to foster a deeper gratitude for what I have, the luxuries I already enjoy or have neglected.

Going deeper requires patience, practice, and engagement. Interestingly enough, these attributes have featured as my words of the year for the past few years. Maybe a sign that all has been leading to the point of awakening as I plan to delve deeper into this one glorious life I have.

Where I work

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.

Sharing My Joy

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Just popping back in here quickly to highlight that I’ve created a new page all about my practice of visual journaling. For the past 3 years, this visual and creative practice has been my lifeline. It has not only got my head straightened out but it has also been my playground where big dreams have been declared and explored and come to fruition.

I do look upon this practice as magical. And the special thing is, everything is inside me waiting to come out. Through the use of paints, images, photography, collage, drawings, stamps and stickers, I get to tap into the magic that is inside of me, all the time, each day. No wonder I go all evangelical when I start to talk about visual journaling and share this practice. As it has quite literally changed my life.

Check out the new page in the portfolio and keep checking back as I continue to update it as well as develop the new ecourse to go with it.

Everyone visual journaling here we come.

Four Months: Friday

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Friday is our last full today together. It is with great sorrow that I have to bring this circle to an end. I hate goodbyes. I usually sneak out in the dead of night, before anyone else is awake, to avoid saying goodbye. To avoid having to look my fellow travellers in the eye and allow them to see how deeply this time with them, this experience has touched me, changed me.

But today, this time, I stand before you and acknowledge how much you have brought and contributed to this retreat. I couldn’t have done it without you. I acknowledge how much our time together has left such an impression upon me. I know I’m not the same person who arrived here just a few days ago to facilitate this holding of space for you.

I don’t want our time together to end, but end it must but I stand before you saying goodbye confident in the feels that you are leaving here also changed; empowered and inspired and more secure in yourself and who you be.

Before we leave, let’s spend one more morning together with our visual journals. Let’s continue the magic one more time as we play with paint, visuals and texts. Let’s share those images of our days together; the sunrises over breakfast, the tears of recognition as we open up to each other, the smells of fresh cooked pancakes and strawberries and chocolate, the laughter late into the midnight sun. Let’s make a promise to ourselves to keep giving ourselves this time and space to think and dream and breathe.

In the afternoon, we drive to
Jökulsárlón. Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon, bordering Vatnajökull National Park in southeastern Iceland. Its waters are a strange turquoise blue, still and dotted with icebergs. On one side is a black sand beach. On the other, the route leads to the Atlantic Ocean. As mesmerising as this glacier lagoon is, it’s here evidence of global warming lies. What we do with this knowledge is yet to be decided. But the conversation has begun.

Four Months: Thursday

We leave our Eco-house early driving into Reykjavik for coffee and breakfast at Braun’s, a delicious bakery selling fresh bread, cinnamon swirls and croissants.

From here we have the length and breadth of the city centre to play with.

We become the Flaneuses, the walking women that we are. Armed with our cameras and pens and journals we begin our adventure.

We walk up the hill to the iconic church, Hallgrímskirkja. We take inspiration from the exterior, designed to resemble the Icelandic landscape with its rocks, mountains and glaciers. This a sharp contrast to it’s clean, understated and simple interior of grey and padded pews. We take the lift to the top of the tower and see the streets of Reykjavík below us as well as the sea and surrounding snow-capped mountains. We are Queens, women unto ourselves up here. We take this sense of power and awe back down as we sit and take time to capture our thoughts and feelings of being here, now. Being present.

Let me take you into a hidden garden of sculptures just by the church. Einar Jonsson Museum. Many walk by and miss this moment of beauty. But we don’t as you have a frequent visitor to Iceland as your guide. Me.  We stop and write here too soaking up the quiet and peace right in the middle of the city.

Down the hill we walk in the direction of the museums and art galleries. We have a few to choose from and it all depends on what they’re exhibiting. The Photograhy Museum is a favourite of mine. The criteria for selection is women, nature and beauty.

We enjoy a workshop within the gallery, stopping for lunch and sharing our creations. Then the afternoon we have the time and space to shop, walk, explore alone or together but really experience the feel and buzz of this compact but vibrant city centre.

As the days are long, we can stay as long as we wish in the city, grabbing dinner, catching a concert at Harpa, experiencing the nightlife. We play it by ear as the adventure just keeps enfolding just beyond our next step.

Four Months: Tuesday

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As I undergo my A Wild Soul Woman Certificate Training, I bring my learning and experiences to our time together with an exploration of the landscapes of Iceland.

In our morning workshop, we bring to the table a birthing journey – a journey to get closer to our true selves. Being with nature, writing and reading about nature, is the key to this process. As Mary Reynolds Thompson has said: ‘ In order to heal the self, we have to heal the earth and in order to heal the earth, we have to heal the self.’ We are in a circular relationship with ourselves and the world around us.

We are not on the hero’s journey but the heroine’s journey, so the path is not linear or goal orientated. Our path moves inward and spirals. This journey is all about the process, and the birthing of new selves again and again. We will move through the different landscapes of Iceland, on the page in our journals as well as on foot outdoors, to journey into the depths of our wild hearts.

Here in the desert, the barren land, we learn to let go, release our preconceived ideas of who we think we are as well as any identities that have been out on us by others, so we can just be. Surrendering.

But is everything really dead here? Within the lava fields, their is life and there is growth. Organisms have adapted and accepted what is,  learning how to thrive in such harsh conditions. We as women can learn from this and thrive also within space. In the silence and solitude, at the end of the end,  we can learn how to listen to our passion, to our fire within.

Sarah Spaeth

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Hello Sarah. Welcome to Livng Wild Studios. Thank you for agreeing to answer these questions. We are so looking forward to spending time with you in Iceland.

1. Tell us something about yourself (How did we meet?)

I have spent most of my life being washed in the drizzle of the temperate rainforest and rich habitats of the Salish Sea, located in the NW corner of the US. Getting lost in the woods, paddling the waters, climbing the mountains and dancing to the diverse beats of the community -the slurp of oysters, the tang of strawberries and rhubarb from the garden, my mother’s forays in Indian quisine, Grandma Glickman’s kosher pickles, the Kurose family sukiyaki – all built my bones, tantilized my tastebuds for the wild, and fed my character and curiousity like the flesh of spawned out salmon feeds the bears and otters and mink and eagles and cedar trees and giant firs of our place in this world. Nurturing this place, the creatures that live here, including my three sons, my husband, extended family and friends has been my life, through a long and sporadic career of feeding people, including starting a bakery and cooking aboard natural history charter boats, and over twenty years of conservation work to preserve Fish, Farms and Forest habitat of the Olympic peninsula. I nurture myself through adventures in the wild and of the heart, and through travel to different landscapes and cultures.

It was on one such adventure that I met Sheree in the hills outside of Rome, where we helped a group of artists harvest olives from their olive grove for a few days. That was the beginning of my deep affection and great admiration for Sheree that has grown with her visits to the NW. I feel SO fortunate to have her in my life!

2. What gets you up out of bed in the morning?

The view out my bedroom window is a reminder of how fortunate and privileged I am to live in a beautiful home built by my family in a welcoming, creative and progressive community. I look upon cedar trees and willows, birds dashing from the bushes to the feeders and the sounds of croaking frogs and ravens overhead. My garden feeds us, as do the famers of our region, and my work as the Director of Conservation at Jefferson Land Trust is very gratifying, as I get to help the community to preserve open space, working farms and forests and wildlife habitat, forever!

3. What do you know to be true in your heart?

As far as I know, we are given one life on this amazing planet, and we need to live it to its fullest! Find and follow your passion, nuture your creativity, appreciate the people in your life and what you are given, and dance!!

4. What was the best advice your received? The above!

5. What are your thoughts about a woman’s place/ position in society at the moment?

Women have a lot of opportunities these days that my mother’s generation and those before did not. In my own world, this has manifest in a career that garners respect and opportunities. In the greater picture, it seems that a fuse has been lit to take the women’s movement to the next level, hopefully addressing the deep inequalities, gender stereotypes, actions and attitudes that continue to divide us and foster disrespect and oppression of women. I believe that our future will be brighter with more women in power. It will be a bumpy road, but I hope that we can demonstrate how to do this with respect, love and compassion for all genders, races and cultures.

6. How do you hold a relationship with the land?

I believe in the concept of reciprocity, as Robin Wall Kimmerer in her book Braiding Sweetgrass writes. We are nurtured by the land in so many ways – from the food and other natural resources it provides us, to the solace and soul food of time spent in nature. In turn, we must nurture the land and creatures of the world as well, otherwise we will lose the riches offered us.

7. What are you looking forward to most about your time in Iceland? Why did you agree to come along for the ride?

I am really excited about the adventure in Iceland!! Of course, I’m eager to explore the landscape and culture of a new place – it’s glaciers, people and foods. I’m also very intrigued to explore the inner landscape of creative thought and spirit with a group of inspired women, led by our amazing Sheree!

8. What are you planning to offer to the Iceland Retreat. What plans have to put in place so far? 

I look forward to nurturing my new friends – with good food inspired by what Iceland has to offer; with foot rubs and laughter and dance! My latest passion is wildlife tracking, and it will be so great to explore Iceland’s wildlife mysteries with the group.

9. Anything you’d like to add? Gratitude, night-Time routine? Rituals?

I am very grateful for the opportunity to join you all in this experience! I look forward to stretching myself – with yoga, new creative tools, daily practices and adventures.