achieving your my form

I stopped on the way to work this wintry morning and photographed these recently trimmed trees – all their branches were on the ground, no doubt to be removed some time soon.Trimmed treesI know these trees, planted for a purpose and trimmed to meet a need, will grow again in the spring but I feel sorry for them.  They have a predestined shape, a true form, their own and not one imposed for some external purpose.

On the way home I stopped on the roadside again.  The trees below have had perhaps a season or two to recover however one day they’ll get the chop again, when the height they have reached is more than the farmer wants – when the tree has reached up and out again to achieve its true form.RegrowthPerhaps the sympathy I feel for these trees is in part due to my recently having to reshape my life to fit back into being a ‘working woman’ once more.  I can no longer spend my days as my mood takes me, doing what I feel inspired to do, rather I’m doing what I need to do, what I am expected to do.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I appreciate having a well-paid, interesting job with wonderful colleagues, however I’d love the luxury of having the day to myself to spend as the mood or the muse moves me.

Where’s that anonymous benefactor – I’m feeling a little misshapen this week.

nailing my colours to the mast

toi toi

apropos of nothing – toi toi against a clear, cold winter’s sky.

Those of you who have followed my blog will know that I recently went back to work full-time after a few months of unemployment.   Having that gift of time on my hands, I began to rediscover play and although I have the attitude that it’s never too late, I was becoming daunted by all the fabulous work I saw on the web, often by people half my age.  I need to remember that they have begun by making it their life work whereas mine has been in education.

Yes, I’m one of the many who have looked too much and done too little and become overwhelmed in the process.  Two people who are very dear to me and who know me well, lovingly let me know that the big difference between the artist bloggers and me was, that they did and I didn’t – and they’re right.

While I know I have a creative streak, can be really inventive and have courage, I was starting to think how these artists whose work and writing I admired, had been at it for years, homing their skills and developing their own style – I felt I had little of either yet what I did do was admired by the few who ever saw it.  Logic and emotion were having a difference of opinion.  I was also aware that I was making this shift, this run at a deeper self-discovery, in my 60s.    Was it too late?  Again, head and heart, head and heart . . .

I talked to friends and family who helped remind me of all the skills I have, of all the times when creativity has erupted like a joyous bubble to save me in one way or another.  During lean times – Christmas presents bought from the proceeds of macramé dog leads, vinyl cowboy jackets, rag dolls, or painted plant pots and how I made a living for myself and my son by sewing for clients.  And again during times when I was depressed and the act of creating something lifted me, and my hopes for the future returned.

Yet still, spontaneity and creativity took back seats, being a parent and provider took over.  As a classroom teacher I still managed to inject some art into my life – it’s amazing how much of the curriculum can be taught to young children using art!  Out of the classroom now, I use intellectual creativity to help others problem-solve.  Unfortunately this is only enough to keep a small spark going.  I’ve been doubting my skills, talent, and I guess, myself – and feeling I will never get up to a standard that I know in my heart I’m capable of.   But I also know that if I don’t do anything, I will never achieve what I want.  I sometimes feel a bit like a voyeur in my own life – looking, but not doing.  Imprisoned by perfectionism!  Do you know that big one too?

After sinking into this fug, I’ve heard or read things that have caused me to take some action.  Some were in posts on favourite blogs, some were words of encouragement and support, words of understanding and words that jolted me awake – BFOs, Blinding Flashes of the Obvious.

As an example, one day I opened Daisy Yellow and there it was, the quote I use under the heading of my blog with Tammy Garcia’s blessing, “You don’t need to catch up, just start.”  It felt like ‘permission granted!’

I’ve not been in the habit of doing something until I was sure I could do it – and I knew that that perfectionist procrastination wasn’t going to get me where I want to be, so I challenged myself and started the blog just following instructions and working it out as I go along.   As a now recovering perfectionist, starting a blog before I knew how to set it up or what it’s purpose would be was a really big step – I can highly recommend learning as you go.

There must be so many men and women out there who have poured themselves into their work and families and forgotten how to play, who have squeezed their creativity into a small box to open later, only to find it rusted shut.  Or, like me, have used it in other ways, creatively solving problems and finding practical, yet creative ways to express myself.   Still, it’s a struggle to find my own style so I’m spending time working in the style of . . . as recommended by Jill Berry when Ricë Freeman-Zachary interviewed her.

I’m going to listen to more podcasts, and look at less images because words often spur me into action. And the podcasts I’ll listen to?  I’ll start with any of Ricë’s.   She made a podcast Tammy Garcia recently and I heard her say “ . . . if you set out to make it perfect then you’re not going to be satisfied with anything.”   Yes, another BFO.

I’m going to openly work in the style of the artists I admire, giving credit to them as I go, and then maybe, I’ll find my own.   So what if I don’t have so much time available?  If I really want this, to be able to say, even if only to myself, “I’m an artist” I’ll find time.

And I do believe I have now found the purpose of this blog, to share how one woman is striving to express herself freely, with child-like creativity, and to show that you do indeed just have to start – even if you’re a bit late.

There you have it.  Watch this space!

a significant change of pace

I have done nothing but day-job work all week, arriving home happily tired and usually with some professional reading.  I know it will settle down but in the meantime the poor bear didn’t get mended, very little of my grand-daughter’s cardigan got knitted and I didn’t open my little Moleskine all week, not to mention the brocade quilt!  I’ve been productive and busy so why give myself a hard time about it?  I know I am not Superwoman, don’t want to be Superwoman, never aspired to be superwoman, in fact the whole concept of a superwoman stinks!  Ah, I feel better now that I’ve given her a small ‘s’ which is all that particular friend of my inner critic deserves!

Starting work full-time after a year’s part-time work and 3 months of being unemployed has been quite a shift – albeit an energising and intellectually stimulating one.

With winter coming on I start each day with a 20 km drive through the countryside just after sunrise and reverse the trip at sundown – I don’t even mind the smell of the occasional truck full of sheep as they remind me of sheep being driven down the road past my father’s shop when I was a kid – I’m immediately transported back and can hear the sound of their feet on the macadam, the dogs barking.   Smells are so evocative aren’t they?

Monday and Friday, as I leave the beach behind for the week, I leave even earlier when it is still dark and arrive home with the sun just setting beyond the horizon of the sea.  There is something I find truly wonderful about leaving a sleeping town in the early hours of the morning – I love that sense of adventure and new beginnings that it engenders.

The day job.  I have absolutely wonderful colleagues – knowledgable, generous, hard-working, humourous, caring – and a job that requires us to be endlessly creative in how support people to solve the difficulties that face them each day.   I just love a challenge and think perhaps creative problem solving is my strength – I just wish I was as adept when it comes to my own!  Maybe I am . . . when you’re so close in, sometimes it’s hard to be both objective and yet free in your thinking.

On Friday (yes you North Americans, it’s a perfect, calm, sunny autumn Saturday morning here), I attended a day of strategic planning – more wonderful colleagues meeting up with a clear focus – and had some reading to do about goal setting to overcome the discrepancy between the current situation or conditions and what was desirable.  I came upon the words CONSTRUCTIVE DISCONTENT.  Fantastic descriptor don’t you think?

I’ve never considered discontent or criticism to be necessarily negative although many do – to me it’s simply a signal that change is needed.  The trouble is, when I read a phrase that resonates such as ‘constructive discontent’ it rambles around in my mind and I start thinking and thinking and thinking and . . . you know what I mean?  I need to DO something with this!

So while I haven’t been terribly creative in the evenings, my days are endlessly challenging and satisfying.  Lucky me!

Lucky me this morning too – a plunger (French press) of coffee, return to bed, laptop, favourite blogs, washing on, sunshine pouring in – and to top it off I have a fresh new copy of Cloth Paper Scissors that was delivered to my mailbox!!!

I’m one very happy woman!Walking to the beachAnd with this just 2 minutes from my front door?  Blessed in the extreme.  Of course life throws up challenges which I sometimes struggle to keep in proportion, but . . . life is so good.

Now, what to do, what to do. . . .?  The library have found a copy of Jill Berry’s Personal Geographies on interloan for me, my machine is calling, I want to call some friends and . . . I think I need more than just a weekend!

I got snail mail!

Yesterday afternoon, as I walked on the beach I found a piece of driftwood as black as pitch that looked for all the world like a crow’s head.  Now one of the blogs I read on a regular basis is Violette’s Creative Juice – and Violette has a special place in her heart for crows.  Crow

So there I was, wandering back from the beach with my crow, thinking about Violette and her love for crows, I checked the mail and YAY!  Violette had sent me her Teen Dream Journal DVD – lucky, lucky me!  I am probably the only person in New Zealand to have one!! Mail

In my job I work with students at risk of failure due to learning and/or behaviour difficulties and self-esteem is a big issue – I mean, if you don’t believe in yourself you’re not going to make optimum progress (at any age).  This DVD is so jam-packed full of material designed with increasing self-esteem in mind and I can’t wait to use it!  It’s school holidays now so I have to be patient – and that’s not a strength I have when enthusiasm strikes.

I’ve watched from the point of view of a teacher who perhaps doesn’t have much experience in art but knows that kids love to experiment and express themselves.  There are enough wonderfully clear demonstrations, explanations, PDF materials and templates for even the most cautious student and teacher to create something unique that reflects their thoughts and feelings.

I can’t wait to use the DVD with teachers and students and I’m certainly recommending it very highly to a friend who works in an alternative school.    Actually, if you’re new to art journaling at any age, it’s a terrific resource.  Get Violette’s book Journal Bliss as well and you’re on your way!

pumice pieces and the work/play dilemma

Beach treasure – pick up the pumice, bring it home, play with a pocket knife!

Last week I was off to interviews and ended up with a temporary job for 5 months.  5 months income is better than none however I now have a small problem which I may have found a solution to.    It’s been a good news, bad news kind of week.

The good news was I found some work in a field I love with wonderful colleagues, many of who I know.

The bad news was that it was in a city some distance away across, sometimes, icy roads and I would need to find a place to stay.

More bad news, I recently re-homed a very neglected little dog and won’t be able to keep her.

The good news is that my across-the-road neighbour has adopted Kizi so I get visiting and walking access and yesterday, I think I found somewhere to stay.

The bad news is I have a full-time job for 5 months just when I’m really getting into the swing of just mucking around and re-learning how to play with abandon in The Late Start Studio.

How will I find the time?  That is my work/play dilemma.