When we find a place in the world to be ourselves and let everything else go for a while we are truly fortunate. My place is the sea.The last few days have been blissful- a time to wander and explore. To build memories with close family and discover even more of the natural wonders and people around me. Magically all this time my mind is working in the background to replace my negative learned behaviour with positive experiences that will continue my journey to better health.
Neuroscience assures me that in future when my brain finds itself in situations that mirror these times my reactions will not be stress, panic and freezing helplessly on the spot. Let me share an example, a sudden crowd of people around some rocks on the beach automatically triggers my ‘fear, fight, flight’ response. My instinct defaults to, ‘go as quickly as possible in the opposite direction- encounters with strangers are painful and embarrassing! ‘. Fortunately now my most recent memory of a crowd is : of the sun warming my skin, the smell of the sea and the sound of waves crashing on the beach. This added to the story behind the crowd- of ‘the Blue Pool’ where locals follow tradition to jump into its clear, deep water just as they have for generations. Then there is the story of the lady who told us about this tradition… All of a sudden my respons to a crowd is more positive.
The words of a long forgotten tutor suddenly come to mind. As he finished a mind bending explanation of chemical titration equations which at the end of a long laboratory session had once again left me frustrated and dispondent . He would scribble quickly on the page, rearrange my result figures and then triumphantly declare, “There, you see? QED!” At the time I never thought of his calculation method as Qite Easily Done. However time and life experience perhaps brings true understanding of his comment. Maybe his real meaning was, ” Yes I know it is difficult, but keep going, keep practicing and eventually it will become second nature!” Why do humans never say what they really mean?! So then, keep going to the beach, keep making good memories and eventually experiences will become positive. Perhaps even one day …QED!
Walks are my sanctuary during good times and bad. Sometimes, on rare and wonderful occasions an onrdinary morning for no particular reason turns into a special day.
This begins with a tingle of expectation as the glorious serindipity of small things coming together hits me. What does that mean? Simply that I will spot a beautiful flower and notice it’s stunning beauty. Then I will notice why: it is a’colourwheel’ contrast to it’s surroundings meaning of course that it is displayed to its absolute best.And all of course by chance?! On such days it is as if the senses are all on overtime and an inexplicable feeling of oneness with nature -a peaceful ‘knowingness’ almost that I am in collaboration with the universe and I am in on all it’s precious secrets.
Too much? Maybe, but I get the sense that there is so much in our world that normally we are unaware of as we charge almost blindfolded through the day. An extra dimension that in our business we just don’t see. There are so many unacknowledged truths that could make living so much easier, if we could take the time to experience it. How? If you don’t already do this try it- stop for a moment- breath in (… yes and out please) –just where you are stand perfectly still and stare. I promise the blinkers of pressure and schedules will drop revealing the beauty in the street or the view you can see from the office window. Escape outside. Let the delicious sensations of the breeze brush your face. Listen for a bird and allow its song to shut out the usual drone of the traffic. What is it telling you in that one moment? Not the past, or the future but now- for this is where life is lived.
Angus in a reflective mood at Llanddwyn,on the Island of Anglesey. “There is nothing to beat a day on the beach… except maybe one with a good cafe a stick throw away from it!”
Angus’s beach tips:
1. As always it pays to investigate doggie rules on each beach before visiting. Especially to avoid confusion on the split ones e.g. Dogs to the left only…if you are not prewarned by the time you have read the sign doggie will surely have sprinted off… to the right!
2. Check the status of the local birds (feathered!), April to September can often be off limits on the whole beach or certain areas to prevent curious kanines disturbing eggs or scaring off parents. Did you know that this is a prosecutable offence?
3. Beaches are often remote and not all have hot drinks and food nearby. For example Newborough is definitely worth a visit and has good toilet facilities but only snack food at high season. The wind sure blows cold out there!
4. Examine the outdoor shower carefully before using it to rinse off sand. There are shower heads and operation leavers at doggie and human height. Confusion over the correct leaver has resulted in a drenching experience for startled dog and owner!
5. Prepare to stay for ages…you will love it here! Photographic evidence below:
Plenty to watch and explore
New friends to meet
Penmore point with it’s picturesque lighthouse
And Llanddwyn Island. This is truly a magical spot reached by a short causeway from Newborough beach
This week saw us pack up and head to the lakes for a much needed tranquility top up. Torrential rain,wind snow and glorious sun made sure our short trip was full of drama and beauty. The soft light was perfect for photography and the people we met a joyful inspiration for my new street art project. Angus starts so many conversations and enables me to explore what makes Keswick buzz in such a unique way. Daily life for the locals and tales of travel and adventure from fellow visitors inspired some impromptu street art which I hope captures a little of the delicious atmosphere. There is something magical about the smile on a face or a far away look that opens the door to the mysteries that might lie behind it…
Angus of course met some new playmates…
… Supervised by the local wildlife
Teasing – I won’t turn round for a photo!
A swan family inches away from us on the pier!
No Angus -this is not a real sheep
That’s better- a local ‘Herdie’
… and took in the spectacular views
Oh that light! Just look at how it bounces, sparkles and throws moody shadows, adding atmosphere to these street -photos and the stories that they tell.
I indulged one of my passions- photographing from strange angles and focusing in reflections in puddles.
… meanwhile Angus does what he knows best-relaxing!
Many thanks to Dolly,Dawn,Steven, Max,George and Charlie for being so patient and allowing me to photograph them and share part of their days. It certainly made ours!
Usually I find holidays a source of pressure. Is this a paradox? It is possible to build up expectations- ” oh, I’ll have time to write a poem while we are away” or ” plenty of time to start art journaling- I’ll take all the materials I need”
This time I decided just to try being me! Of course I felt a tad guilty about not creating but I had time to relax and take stock of the wonder around me. Surprisingly I have comeback creatively refreshed and full of inspiration and photographic prompts to work from.Yaaay!
Does it ever make your head spin trying to fathom out the beauty of nature? Yes, I will admit to being accused of regressing to childlike eye popping enthusiasm on recent walks in the woods or just round the garden. This may imply that I have taken a Benjamin Button like step back in time. I choose to believe it is more a case of having time, space and freedom to allow myself the luxury of taking off my ‘adult filters’.
Let me illustrate what I mean. My head conversation would go something like this:
“Gosh me! How does a tiny grain of a seed turn into this? And especially in my hands 😀. Woo hoo! Just look at the psychedelic patterns like fish scales or a peacocks eye topped tail feathers- and the feathery textured edges.”
” And look now. How do they turn into these flowers. All my favourite colours. Feather petals and delicate centres. I must paint this. Reminds me of ballerinas. Graceful- speaking to me of movement. The paint must flow in a graceful curve . They are sooooo beautiful.”
Anyway, time to add some science and the chocolatecake.
Anyone familiar with the work of the child psychologist Jean Piaget will be familiar with his theories of childhood development. (What do you mean kids just get bigger?) His theory is now backed by much research and proposed that from birth to approximately two a child develops using basic movement and his senses. Next between two and seven a child learns language skills. The other two stages you will just have to look up… as this is only a tiny bit of science! An artist friend and I were discussing childhood wonder at the world compared to the reserve we all take on in adulthood. We start our lives touching, tasting, smelling, hearing and staring at things therefore the impressions we get are feelings and emotions. By seven we are developing the ability to reason and express our opinions in words.
Could it be that this is one reason why as adults we feel cautious or embarassed about using our emotions to express ourselves? I know that this is over simplistic but think about it? If you see a delicious cake what is your gut instinct deep down? To create a factual database listing weight,height and the viscosity of the icing? Or maybe just reach out and grab it, to smell its rich powerful chocolates aroma and to let it crumble on your tounge releasing flavours that set alarm bells ringing in your tastebuds? You could say this is a biased argument- and it is because I do love eating cake!
However I hope that you see what I am getting at? Like many artists, dancers, musicians and writers I believe that a certain degree of emotion and use of our senses is important during creative work. Not only do I look at the world through the senses and excitement of a child! I often paint and draw like one too- with my fingers.(Shhh!) I do it because it allows me to connect through touch with the paint and my emotions hopefully flow more easily into the work on the canvas. Maybe I am writing high on cake but to me it is fun and adds to my creative wellbeing so I think I can justify carrying on for now!
Gosh… recently life has been a whirlwind.The more I think if it the more I can compare myself to poor old Dorothy ( but please no, not the pig tails and cute dress) ! Life has been my tornado spinning me round and round and finally depositing me somewhat bemused at the start of a journey down my equivalent to the yellow brick road. I have stared off with a purpose and met friends along the way… You get the picture I imagine. Well, there I go skipping merrily along until part way in I run out of the initial excitement that has propelled me thus far. What do I do?
I have two choices:
Return to my default habits, convince myself that my dreams are unrealistic and stop
Find strategies to carry on, fight my doubts and lack of self belief and hang in there until the moment passes. Then I can carry on making myself happy and fulfilled doing what I love best- dwelling in possibility!
As I am still posting I hope it is obvious which choice I made!
During a conversation with my husband yesterday I was reminded again that nothing beats quality time absorbing creativity from what is around. Just to ‘be’ and let it all wash over me. As we spent time talking in the carparks of a well known fast food chain this stunning animal emerged tentatively from a bush. We were surprised by its boldness and calm demeanour. Mr fox was definitely in charge of the moment as he stared straight at us before trotting off unperturbed.
Nature was once again leaving its unique mark on me. The fleeting few seconds when that beautiful creature locked its’ searching eyes on us was quite magical. It remains with me as a kind of visual soothing medicine. Much as I crave painting and writing, for me it is not the outcome that I value as much as the process to get there. Some times the thought process takes priority over painting especially during times of low energy. I have read that creative energy peaks and ebbs sometimes for many reasons. For me it is important to listen to this, respect it and just be, perhaps practice mindfulness or concentrate on experiencing nature around me until I feel recharged. What in the end recharges me? There is no telling. It could be rest, time, poetry or indeed a passing fox taking me back to rejoin the journey just like Dorothy on her way to find the wizard of Oz.
Funny how often good ideas come to us in the strangest of places! This week while my walk included clambering and slipping over seaweed at a 45 degree angle I realised a profound comparison to my new fledgling creative journey. Ok if you insist on the science, walking increases the flow of oxygen to the brain so it is obvious that I would think more clearly while exercising. However inspite of my ‘ inner scientist’ screaming practical answers from my past I prefer the perhaps more romantic notion that while rambeling we are reconnecting with nature and discovering our instinctive links to the wild. I suspect that both theories are essential ingredients in the mix .
As I stumbled ungracefully along the newly exposed rock pools instead of taking the sensible but dull grass track to the beach, I began to examine the choices that had lead me along this precarious route. That was simple, a life long attraction to guddling about at low tide looking for crabs and starfish first as a child and then with my daughter too. To me it was the only way to go. My dog Angus and I plodded diligently along occasionally looking up to those on the easy route. Invariably I questioned my judgement of bringing us this way and thought of abandoning the adventure. My companion bounced along so I did what I could to follow. Really this was in deed like my new creative path: choosing not to follow convention and so risking justifiable criticism and questions from others and full of self doubt and thoughts of giving up. I can see my goal ahead and if I persist with courage and conviction inch by inch I will reach my goal. The path will take me a different way and bring rewards that may remain unseen by the majority but to me are a reward that makes the little trod path worth taking… Then I had to stop thinking my brain hurt and the guilt ‘gremlin’ * was asking me what on earth I had had for breakfast!
As I struggled to ignore said gremlin a lovely thing happened. I found my reward in a beautiful patch of rock where the layers had been partially eroded making beautiful sweeping curves. Of course these immediately transferred to the virtual canvas in my brain, taking with them the spectacular colours and textures around me.
Reward indeed for the rest of our trip was filled with seeds of ideas to photo and cram into my brain in the hope that they would germinate on my canvas at home. The pleasure and contentment was immense.
Now to see if the idea works….
* you may be familiar with the ‘gremlin ‘ by another name such as self doubt or lack of confidence. He has been the subject of many online creative community discussions and is responsible for the postponment or abandonment of artistic projects and frequently needs support to be banished.Many friends in the meantal health community call him a parrot sitting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear that I cannot achieve what I wish to. Some give him a name, draw him, humorise him and most importantly acknowledge him for what he is – an untruth. However you do it, banish that gremlin!