Hello and welcome. Displayed here are a selection of artworks, photographs, mixed-media and collages created by Sheree Angela Matthews; artist + teacher + creativity enthusiast. Visit the store to find out how to buy.
The Crone was the first card I pulled for the theme of my year, 2021. I thought this card was very apt as I’m moving towards my 50th birthday on October, as well as this card being the thirteenth in the Wild Unknown Archetype deck. This is my number. So I feel that The Crone has a wealth of wisdom to impart upon me this year and beyond.
The Crone is the third figure in the triple goddess path, and she has been around long enough to have seen it all. She has reached the point of rejecting dualities in life and accepts it all, the beauty with the suffering, black with white.
Often present with crows, a symbol of wisdom as well as death, the Crone gives and takes life, using all energies to reveal hidden knowledge. The Crone resides in us all but is often feared because of her power.
I accept whatever she will bring this year, and look forward to deepening my relationship with her rich and unapologetic magic.
I see The Crone’s appearance now as a reinforcement of the decisions that I’ve already made. I don’t have time for any superficial and petty discussions or relationships. I feel in order to heal myself, that I need to go deeper, deeper within even if this means I travel alone.
This going deeper will be supported by further study into such goddesses as Dhumavati, Hecate, Baba Yaga and Lilith.
A few weeks ago, when I was in the thick of my separation and wondering how I was going to get through the rest of 2020, I made a commitment to myself to designate October as a creative retreat month. I’m not going anywhere, but I am protecting my time to retreat from the world and outside commitments in order to focus on my creative practice.
Due to circumstances, I’ve allowed things to get lost in transition. Focusing on what brings me joy, like reading and writing and creating haven’t been top of my list for ages, it feels. So protecting October, my favourite month of the year, my birth month, as time and space to re-engage with my creative projects and start some new ones felt right for me.
Only a few days into October, and I was inspired in a poetry workshop to attempt #thesealychallenge. This challenge is to read thirty-one poetry books or chapbooks in the thirty-one days of August. I know it’s October but I’m coming late to the party. But I feel this is just what I need to relight my fire, put pen to paper and write poetry.
So far this month, I’ve read 5 poetry collections and chapbooks. What I’m doing while reading is also collecting words, single words which I like the sound of, or I find are being used in new and usual ways. Words that stir my interest and create a reaction.
What this reading is doing is inspiring me to write again. So from just reading other people’s work, immersing myself in the world of poetry again, I’ve created 6 new poems. So I’m going all the way this time, and trying for 31 poems by the end of the month; 31 poems in 31 days.
This has already gotten me through a block, a fear that was starting to take hold of me that I might be only able to write while in crisis, while in an unhappy state. But by producing something over the last few days, I’ve now put that fear to rest. I’m back, reading and writing, writing and reading.
I was talking to a dear friend, last night via FaceTime. We hadn’t connected with each other for months. Our schedules just didn’t coincide. But now, as the outside world slows down, we managed to connect and spend an hour or so catching up. With her living out in Washington State and me in the North of England, over the last ten years of our friendship, we’ve managed to stay in touch pretty well. Sometimes in person too.
We both feel that what is happening in the world now, with the pandemic is awful and worrying. But we both recognise a shift in the pace of life, that this has brought about too. Closing our doors, literally to the outside world, not going to work, not socialising with people face to face, has meant a change in behaviours. We’ve gone within and have started to appreciate all those little things that were right under our noses all along. We’ve started to experience gratitude for the lives we’ve created and are still able to enjoy.
For me, this time has given me the space to purposefully lean into my creative practice. I’m not pushing it, striving for productivity like I have in the past. And I’m not beating myself up when I don’t happen to complete my to-to list for each day. I mea, whenever have I managed to complete that never-ending to-do list? But still there’d be that voice at the end of the day berating myself for what I didn’t accomplish instead of congratulating myself on what I did do. Now I’ve taken my foot off the accelerator and it feels weird but it also feels right. I’m settling into the self-isolating with my family, and trying to take better care of myself. I’m fixing my own oxygen mask first and that feels weird but right also.
Things are not good at the moment. Especially when I do venture outside for the essentials and see the empty shelves in supermarkets. Also when people seem to not understand the concept of social distancing and still stand up on my arse as if we’re in a packed train carriage. Step away from me, man. I want to shout. Use some common sense. When I have to be out there, it soon annoys me with how some people are reacting, and my panic levels start to rise as a result. This is when I choose to walk away and find some space in nature. Walking outside is still possible and so is going into the sea. Thank goodness. Small mercies, I’ll gladly have for now. Out in nature, watching the waves, listening to the birds, seeing buds bursting on branches, my mind soon calms down, my breathing deepens, and my smile reappears.
So yes, things are not good at the moment with the Coronavirus but things could be a lot worse. And I think things, the situation and the way society operates at the moment, are going to get a lot worse before better. Here in the U.K., each day sees an increase in the number of deaths from the virus as well as the number of confirmed cases. We haven’t hit the peak yet, as we’re lagging behind such countries as Italy and Spain. And this isn’t me wishing the worst on us or anyone else. This is me being real.
Spending time catching up with my friend, was needed and beneficial for us both. Yes we caught up with what’s been happening, but we were also able to see each other. See that we’re okay and send out hopeful vibes that one day we will meet again. Who knows what the future holds. Who knows how this social isolation will end, if ever. But we can have hope and we can make the best of a bad situation. Gratitude helps immensely here, believe.
Kielder Forest and Water. Partaking in training to become a volunteer who will Osprey watch over the summer this year. It is an interesting gig, learning about the birds as they come back to the forest after wintering in Senegal or The Gambia.
Kielder has become the home for 7 mating pairs of Ospreys for the abundance of space and fish to raise fledglings. Our job will be to set up the scopes for viewing the nesting pairs. To talk to visitors about their behaviours and raise the profile of our birds as they work together to build up their chicks for becoming independent birds over the summer months.
There are also Osprey watch cruises upon Kielder water to check out all the nests along the reservoir.
In the past, I’ve volunteered for certain things, indoor jobs, like manning phones for charities, running creative workshops, talking to kids about writing etc. I’ve never volunteered for anything out in nature as I never thought I would be of any use. Or there was the underlying feeling of not belonging there. Bit by bit this self-limiting attitude is changing.
Today I wake to an email from Kenya and Michelle @Outdoor Journal Tour (ODJT) and the phenomenal work they’re doing in getting black women outdoors. They inspire me to do more especially when they share the reasons why black women need to experience the healing qualities of nature.
What makes me sad and angry is that they, we, don’t get enough support in this endeavour. Some people choose to troll them, us, derail us instead of recognise what we are doing and our struggle. Some people choose to not see inequalities and injustices in our society because it simply doesn’t effect them.
From a recent post on Instagram, ODJT shared their experience of being trolled but also the outpouring of love and support they are receiving for their work. Being able to see this support and understanding and love is fuel to continue what we are doing. Some people will never understand, listen or accept the way society does divide us along so many lines including race, gender, sexuality, religion etc. But we have to still have hope that change is here and there is more to come. We cannot give up hope.
Walk down by the falls, in winter, catch the scent of wet clay upon the breeze of indifference. Dullness is broken by golden catkins, with a hint of blush. Light and soft prickles flutter, hanging long, delicate and strong. Underneath, collect the hazelnuts but pay a mind to the grey squirrel with a rosy back, who probably needs them more than you. Share and connect as we are all kin. We are one.
A friend mentioned yesterday that she was rushing around completing chores so she could get back to watching the Netflix series Love is Blind. Sheis addicted to it, against her better judgement. This got me thinking, what is this program about?
I binged watched the whole series up until the grand finale, aired today ( but I’ve now seen it!). It’s a reality TV series which is experimenting with love. They’re trying to find out if people can fall in love, make that deep soul emotional connection with someone they have never seen. They just get to talk to each other, in separate pods with a wall between them. But over a short space of time, with only conversation to make the connection, men and women do fall in love.
But will it last once they see each other? And then what happens when they get back into the real world? Obstacles are forever put in their path to test their love. This kind of stuff really gets me annoyed but not this time. I know the tricks and devices these programmes use to keep you watching and I was all in. I could see behind the curtain, all the knobs and pulleys used to create a reaction in the audience but I’m a romantic at heart. I was rooting for the couples, one in particular, to come through it still together and stronger and married. As that was what the twang finale was all about; their weddings days. Would they get married after knowing each other for only 6 weeks? Crazy, right?
I usually don’t watch reality T.V. It’s cringe worthy. I especially don’t enjoy how black women, if ever included, are portrayed and presented. I just don’t think we come off well in these type of shows. We are there as entertainment fodder. There to fulfil the stereotype. So I’m always reluctant to watch these shows, never mind invest time and energy and emotion into them.
Love is Blind got me at the first episode. I was sitting late into the night grinning at the TV like a love overdosing idiot. There were women in there that grated on my nerves, while others especially Lauren and Cameron who I wanted to stay true to each other, love no matter what anyone else might say and live happily ever after. I think I invested in this couple because she was black and he was white. The only inter-racial couple in the whole programme. And I wanted them to work against the odds probably because they reflect my reality of being married to a white man.
I have so many issues with this series. The mere fact that marriage is out there as something to aspire to. That you’re not complete until you find your significant other. Yes I know we are sociable creatures wired for connection but how many centuries have girls been socialised into women with the belief that catching the man ( and no mention of woman) being their destiny and ultimate goal. Our fairy tale system is set up to make girls feel that one day there Prince will come along and rescue them/ or whisk them off their feet as long as they’re beautiful enough, quiet enough, good enough. So yes I have my issues with the whole premise of the series and yet I still watched it all and cried at the end.
Why? Because the kind of love that these young people were looking for, and for some I think they found l, is the kind of love where you can be yourself within. The kind of love where your partner love you from the inside out. For who you are at your core. They can see your soul and stay by your side anyway.
Maybe that is a kind of fairy tale love. Maybe that love doesn’t exist and is all make believe. But this old romantic in me thinks it can be found. And once found, held onto with daily practice of giving and receiving love, remaining open and vulnerable and honest. Communicating about everything, always.
Today, I’m up at 6am. We return to school after half-term break, and after the school run, I have an outdoor meeting. So my time is spoken for during the day. So I get up early, to come to my desk, and write. I ‘m working on putting my priorities first for a change. And don’t get me wrong, no one puts pressure on me to put their needs and wants first. No, no one has to do that because I do it myself. It is I who thinks I should be and do everything to everyone and bend in so many different directions and ways to make this happen. And when I don’t I’m racked with guilt and think I’m a bad mother, wife, friend, human being even.
For now, I’m changing this record which has been on repeat for far too long. I’m changing it up and sticking on the record which is called, Sheree’s priorities. It’s a sound that takes some getting used to. It’s a sound I might want to turn off straight away as it’s too needy, to hesitate, too demanding, too vulnerable. But I persevere through practice. Through turning up at my desk each day, sitting my arse down and picking up that pen and facing the uncertainties, I know I’m strengthening a much neglected muscle. And it feels good to find and use those muscles I didn’t even know I had.
And this morning, the music of that priorities record, that new release, is so growing on me that I find myself tapping my feet, swaying and singing along to the sweet sweet tune of creativity.