Pause

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.

Osprey Watch

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.

I look forward to start and share my experiences.

#WeHikeToHeal

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.

Hazel Catkins

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.

Love is Blind

A friend mentioned yesterday that she was rushing around completing chores so she could get back to watching the Netflix series Love is Blind. She is 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.

Prayer to Yemoja

Yemoja,

Goddess of the sea, hear my plea.

As the rivers runs from your breasts , straight to the sea,

let your saltwaters wash over me.

Cleanse me to the soul and nurture me

so all my ill-feelings and sorrows and woes are taken

deep out into the heart of the ocean and disappear.

Hear me when I send out love for you,

my respect and grace and thanks for all that you do

for me, for women and for children.

I know you and you know me

and hear me when I honour your power, your grace

and your generosity.

Queen of the deep blue sea, I wish you only life and love and light

as when I come to you with my heart open

you make whole what is incomplete in me.

At the desk

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.

.

Broken Wing

Walking back from the woods, I find you, a couple of spruce pine cones, squashed, into shapes that reminds me of a broken wing; feathers bent back at an awkward angle, tawny like an eagle or an owl.

My breath catches at the thought of death and destruction, of an imaginary bird, landlocked without the aid of one wing.

My heart somersaults at such a striking thought that’s followed quickly upon by feelings of blame lying at our feet.

The Birthday of Our Ancestors

18 February is the birthday of two iconic Black Women who have had a tremendous influence on my life and writing.

Happy Birthday Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison


“In our work and in our living, we must recognize that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction.” – Audre Lorde


“Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” – Toni Morrison