Friday, May 27, 2011

Time out

"It isn't normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement." Abraham Maslow

Since once again my body is telling me in no uncertain terms that I need to rest and change some areas in my life, I am taking the entire weekend off and will only go near my To Do list if I actually feel like it. I will try to think about stuff I have conveniently pushed aside for too long. I have been advised to take a long break and protect myself from bad energies and deal with what seems to be the emotion behind my health problems - fear. And I have to learn to say no. I am finding that difficult for various reasons, but one is that I feel I also need to step out of my comfort zone more and say yes to things I might not want to commit to, but which ultimately will bring positive results. It's hard to know which situations/requests/offers to say yes to and which ones need a no.
I wish I could follow my intuition, but it has been in hiding; I can't hear that voice under all the layers of shoulds and doubts and wanting to please others and politeness.

Picture: tea break at the Glenlo Abbey Hotel - trying to be a lady, but look at how I am holding that cup!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chamomile and rose...

...and day trips to ruins and graveyards

In the last few days I have been a mixture of upset, angry, crying-my-eyes-out-hysterical and sleep-deprived (the latter due to nightmares and the worst storm I have ever witnessed here, the type that makes me regret temporarily that my house is on a hill and exposed to the elements). I am also battling another kidney infection, and my last bit of money for this month went towards doctor's bills and medicine.
At such times, one thing that never fails is the power of scents. I have been burning chamomile oil (which is quite different from what you'd expect; it is sweeter than the tea), and it instantly calms me down and dissipates angry feelings. And I have been drinking rose tea, which has the same effect, plus a lovely colour. It's hard to stay tense for long when inhaling such comforting scents.
I am also discovering how good it feels to regularly go away on day-trips or half-day trips. They are like mini-holidays. These things and the kindness of strangers (and of course that of friends and family) keep me relatively sane, and the long summer holidays are just around the corner.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Evening sunlight

Today the sun was back, and I came home to a light-filled house. I love the evening light when the sun shines into the two bedrooms (and through there into the rest of the house if I leave the doors open, which I do most of the time - tiny houses have lots of advantages).

 Parts of the doors are translucent...

I am hoping for good weather tomorrow morning, as I haven't been running at all this week. I know bad weather shouldn't deter me, but gale-force winds kind of do.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bags by Anke Ryan

Five-year plan #26 (or something): When my older sister and her husband finally move here (WHEN??!!), we will set up a market stall selling handmade things. In the meantime I am trying to convince her to open an online shop. Here are two bags she has made for me in the last few months. She is much more prolific than me. I think she doesn't sleep.

 The detail!

Despite her warnings not to carry too much heavy stuff in it, this was my everyday bag for months, filled with all the survival-bag essentials I used to carry around with me. It seemed sturdy enough, but then one seam tore a bit, and I haven't got around to fixing it yet. This (and my decluttering frenzy) made me reconsider what I schlep around with me (and what it does to my shoulder), and I am now quite happy to leave the house without the heavy second notebook, keys I don't even know what they were for and several weird make-up items I never needed (though I am still known to carry two or more bags at a time...)

Monday, May 16, 2011

I Am Tired.

My biggest achievement at the weekend was changing my bedclothes (since I only have one set after giving away the spare ones, this means washing and drying them in a day, which is how I like it, though it was made difficult by capricious weather and birds doing nasty things to them while they were on the clothes line).

 I needed a break mid-task. It looked too inviting.

A 1 1/2-hour nap ensued. I woke when the sun disappeared behind a cloud and my feet were suddenly cold. It's been hiding behind clouds ever since...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Good books

I've been meaning to post about some of the books I read in the last year or so. I'll start with the last two novels I read, which are still fresh in my mind and have added something to the last few weeks -the characters and stories would accompany me throughout the day. I often find myself thinking the way a character from a book I am reading at the time would think or speak. It is so important to me to always have a few good books waiting for me in my bag, in the car, and by my bedside.

[I won't give a summary of the plot (google the books if you want to know more), just an excerpt and some thoughts.]

The Summer Without Men - Siri Hustvedt

"We must all allow ourselves the fantasy of projection from time to time, a chance to clothe ourselves in the imaginary gowns and tails of what has never been and never will be. This gives some polish to our tarnished lives, and sometimes we may choose one dream over another, and in the choosing find some respite from ordinary sadness. After all, we, none of us, can ever untangle the knot of fictions that make up that wobbly thing we call a self." (Hustvedt, Siri: The Summer Without Men, Sceptre, London 2011, p.188)

As with all her novels, this is so much more than the story it tells. It includes philosophical thought, literary criticism, a history of ideas of gender differences, poetry, e-mail correspondence, thought fragments, musings on art, evolutionary biology, drawings by Hustvedt, ... The time line gets shaken up occasionally and is interspersed with the narrator's meditations on writing her story. Hustvedt is brilliant at bringing alive intriguing fictional artworks. The themes are rejection, madness, death, bullying, love and art, and ultimately the self and the changes it undergoes, but despite the heavy subjects, the narrator never loses her sense of humour. A great read.

Tender is the Night - F. Scott Fitzgerald

"One writes of scars healed, a loose parallel to the pathology of the skin, but there is no such thing in the life of an individual. There are open wounds, shrunk sometimes to the size of a pin-prick but wounds still. The marks of suffering are more comparable to the loss of a finger, or of the sight of an eye. We may not miss them, either, for one minute in a year, but if we should there is nothing to be done about it." (Fitzgerald, F. Scott, Tender is the Night, Penguin Classics, London 2000, p.186)

I am a little bit obsessed with F. Scott (and Zelda!) Fitzgerald, but for some reason I only read this book - the last novel he completed - recently. It is about a young psychiatrist who marries one of his patients and is semi-autobiographical. His prose is so beautiful, often dream-like and lyrical and poignant, and he evokes the roaring twenties and the different settings perfectly. He also demonstrates great insight into the mind of a mentally ill person. I loved The Great Gatsby, but this novel is even better, in my opinion.


Finally, two non-fiction books I would highly recommend:

I am a sucker for essays, so I was very happy to receive Zadie Smith's Changing My Mind as a birthday present last year. I enjoyed her novel On Beauty (and have White Teeth on my to-read list), and it was interesting to read her thoughts on writing, on other writers, such as David Foster Wallace and E. M. Forster (On Beauty is a homage to the latter), as well as a whole range of other subjects (I love the juxtaposition of completely different topics, ranging from literary criticism to personal memories, in essay collections).

And, completely unrelated, this relatively new book on knitting is great, with lots of beautiful and easy projects, a nice layout and design and everything you need to know about knitting.

Purls of Wisdom by Jenny Lord

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I have been making some changes to the blog. They mainly involved putting together the new top bar pages. All this is a work-in-progress, and I'll be updating and editing as I go along.

The latest addition is the What I Love page, which lists a fraction of the things I love, satisfying my need for documenting and list-making. It is completely random, with no categories.

The link to my website has been up for a while, even though in real life I haven't told many people about it yet. I had wanted to get my own website for years, but was always waiting for the Right Time. The Right Time was some magical point in the future when I would have become an incredibly productive artist who had figured it all out and was happy to present herself to the world. Needless to say, I would have waited forever. I am beginning to see that it is all about the journey and to be more gentle with myself. So a few weeks ago I decided to just create that elusive website and let it grow and develop from there. With the website I have gained a second blog, something I was a bit hesitant about at first, as all this is happening at a time when I am also paring down computer stuff and trying to keep things simple. But now I'm glad I have it. It is a sort of online art journal, and I might occasionally link to it from here. This does not mean that there won't be any art-related posts here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

"Books are made up like sandcastles" - interview with Allan Ahlberg in The Guardian

"Usually you can't build a house without an architect doing drawings - there is an intention prior to the existence of the building. But books are made up like sandcastles: you add stuff and knock it down and change it - and in fact, you didn't even know you were building a castle at first, you thought you were building a garage. Or you were going to have a cave and instead it turned into a garden full of shells" (Allan Ahlberg)

I like to make the weekend papers last the whole week (the Daphne du Maurier story I mentioned in the last post was creepy and brilliant). Yesterday I read this inspiring interview with Allan Ahlberg, also in last Saturday's REVIEW section in the Guardian (you can read it online here):

As I have said here many times, I love children's books. For Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project), reading children's books is her "comfort food" activity, and I feel the same way. Particularly in cases where the combination of writing and illustrations proves to be a perfect, long-lasting match (Roald Dahl/Quentin Blake and Astrid Lindgren/Ilon Wikland come to mind), such books take up residence in my head and heart, and the Ahlbergs' output is one such example.
It was fascinating to read what Ahlberg had to say about the process of creating children's books. I recently started to do illustration work and would like to do more in that area, so it was very encouraging to read things like "I'm far from being the best writer in the world, and Janet was very good but she wasn't the greatest illustrator in the world either [...] it's as though we took my modest talent and we took Janet's modest talent and we poured it into a tiny 32-page thing" (though I am sure he was just being modest saying this!). I sometimes feel there is no point working towards something that might never materialise -though of course there is; it's not only about the end result- and when there are so many people doing it better, but Ahlberg's story gives me hope (on a side note, it also makes me think of this post - I bookmarked it and read it when I feel pessimistic). They received lots of rejections in the beginning, but they persevered and finally made it.
It was also the creative process of "making books" that helped Ahlberg when Janet died in 1994, and I can relate to that - art-making is very therapeutic. This interview came at exactly the right time, just when I needed a gentle reminder that I am on the right path, no matter where it will lead.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Three Colours

Suddenly it is cold again (and windy and wet). Matt sent me these pictures from the sunny, warm weekend (requested by me because of the colours, taken with his phone camera):

PINK - Al fresco lunch and papers (I saved the Daphne du Maurier story -lost for 70 years- for today)

RED - Spiddal has painted its benches

GREEN - a walk among trees

Monday, May 2, 2011

Walking, running, driving

This morning I went for a three-hour walk with my 77-year-old friend and neighbour (instigated by her). In the end my 27-year-old legs hurt, but in a good way. I want to be like her when I am 77. She doesn't look her age at all. She regularly gets a great haircut (and dyes her hair herself), her walking outfits are far more fancy than mine (MBT shoes), she has great skin and a wicked sense of humour.
We walked places I had never been before, on bog roads and with beautiful sea views. I only brought my house key, and it felt great not to have a mobile phone and money on me and not to think about the time.

I also did a lot of walking over the weekend. I met my friends and their cute dog for an 8am Sunday morning run/stroll by the river, and in the end we went to a running track nearby. It was so soft and made me reconsider my usual route, which starts outside my door and is mainly on tarmac. I love running in the woods and on the beach, but the great thing about my round is that I don't have to get in the car and it requires less planning. Maybe I'll aim for one or two soft-ground runs each week.

The day before a friend and I went for a drive that ended in a cul-de-sac in the middle of nowhere. I like middles of nowhere. From there we could see Galway across the water:

cul-de-sac four-legged

After all that walking I know I'll sleep well tonight! Then again, I've never had any problems sleeping... (speaking of sleeping: The last few nights I slept like a baby, which may be due to all the fresh air and activity, but I also made sure my phone was switched off and believe it has made a difference. We do not yet know the effects of sleeping directly beside a mobile phone. I used to forget to switch mine off and kept it on my bedside table, as I have neither a watch nor a clock, and a lot of people seem to do that, but it could be very bad for us).
I really want to keep up the walking, in addition to the running; it makes me a better person (at least less cranky)!