Monday, November 26, 2012


...things for a Christmas stall...

...bread (though I want to eat less stodgy food)...

 ... artwork - revisiting/layering in this case (realising just how versatile watersoluble coloured pencils are)...

...time: for people, for running (my new rule is: if I am at home and conditions are acceptable - no horizontal rain! - and I am not expecting anyone, I go for a run, no matter how busy I think I am. The hour it takes up I get back through increased energy and clarity.)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dogs, kids, birds, berets

 tiny dog, huge shadow 

berets - knitted earlier this year

 acrylic birds

I don't have a dog and I don't have children, but last weekend I was given one of the former and two of the latter on loan. I got no painting done (the kids did - eight paintings between them in less than half an hour; they are very prolific), but I did get out of my head, which is just as valuable. 

Then Monday came and I spent it very much in my own head, so much so that I took to bed to make it stop. I know spending time with children and animals isn't the only way to feel grounded, but left to my own devices I often sabotage myself and don't do what I know would be good for me while fully aware of how I am blocking my wellbeing. 

There have been some blue-sky days, but mostly it has been typical November weather, wet and windy, and I haven't been out for a run or a swim in over two weeks. The last three days I didn't get home until after 8pm, and running in the dark doesn't appeal to me either. I shouldn't blame the weather and lack of daylight, though - dedicated people don't let these things deter them. Last night I saw a runner with a headlamp dodging puddles. It is possible, and I really need to be in my body more.

Crafting also takes me out of my head - it does leave plenty of space to think (so does exercise, but even if running sometimes stimulates my brain too much, at the end I always get that rush of endorphins that dissolves whatever was going on in my head), but for some reason the thoughts I have while engaged in crafting are of a less obsessive, less negative nature. It seems to sedate you. I am enjoying knitting round things at the moment - the sense that there is no beginning and no end; it just goes round and round... mesmerisingly absorbing.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Love, life, etc.

Allardice, Lisa, "A Lesson in Love", p.20, Review Saturday Guardian 03.11.12

After I bemoaned my temporarily slow reading pace in my last post, I decided to remedy the situation, and today I have done little else but read. There are enough unread books in my house to last me well into the new year, but thanks to the Guardian's Review section, my to-read list is ever-growing, and with the allure of the new I can become greedy. I have to remind myself that the unread books I already have are just as new as the ones that are out there in the world waiting. I will resist the temptation to buy new books for now, but I suddenly feel it is absolutely vital for me to read Colette.

I have never read anything by her, but I think I will enjoy Break of Day (her memoir-as-fiction account of spending a summer alone in her house and garden in the middle of her life, turning to the natural world and away from love), which has been reissued by Capuchin Classics. I am still reading Marion Milner, and this appears to be similar territory, if completely different in style - women artists finding themselves seems to be a recurring theme for me. And of course I couldn't help noting that Colette was a crazy cat lady - another recurring theme and something I aspire to...

In the meantime, I am going back to poetry. I don't tend to re-read novels, unless they are favourites, but the great thing about books of poetry is that they get re-read - and thus energised - a lot (I do subscribe to the Feng Shui view that books that just sit on a shelf untouched become dead energy).

Sylvia Plath was one of my first loves. Faber and Faber has just published a collection of her poems chosen by Carol Ann Duffy, and in her article for the Guardian she emphasises that, although influenced by confessional poetry, for Plath "craft was as important as the exploration of self", that her poems move beyond the life they draw from and take on a life themselves. Duffy also reminds us that despite the often dark themes, there is a playfulness to Plath's work, which displays her "great appetite for the sensuous experience" and her interest and delight in the shaping of the poem. 

"Poets are ultimately celebrators, of life and poetry itself. A vocational poet like Plath gives life back to us in glittering language - life with great suffering, yes, but also with with melons, spinach, figs, children and countryside, moles, bees, snakes, tulips, kitchens and friendships." (Duffy, Carol Ann, "Permission Not To Be Nice", p. 14, Review Saturday Guardian, 03.11.12)


Speaking of poetry, I love this from William Carlos Williams's Paterson, posted by Leo Babauta on Zen Habits today.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sound and scent

 I used to read a book a day, but lately I have been a slow reader. The pile of books by my bedside has been the same for a month now, and the weekend papers last me all week (the latter is always the case, in fact - I like to stretch them out, pretending that every day is Sunday). I know I will get back to my usual reading pace, but I am still finding it difficult to concentrate, and my eyes get tired, so I am giving them a rest and indulging in the audio and olfactory instead - ok, and Downton Abbey.

At the moment I am using jojoba oil with a drop of geranium or mandarin essential oil as a moisturiser. This actually suits me better than the Dr Hauschka facial oil I was using before. I have been burning clary sage oil and using it as a massage oil and in the bath - this oil has a euphoric effect, and I reckon it might be a good choice for people suffering from SAD at this time of the year. I use it whenever I feel lethargic or depressed, and it is great for PMS and period pains.


"... I felt a little bit disenchanted and empty of inspiration, and I thought the best thing to do would be to stay at home in England and live by the sea, so I bought a kitten and did lots of home cooking and walked to the ocean every day and ... was trying to rebuild myself" - Natasha Khan, in Bat for Lashes - Letting Go of Ghosts - Creating The Haunted Man (beautiful video).

This reminded me of Lesley Garner's words and, of course, the healing quality of the feline-human relationship (speaking of which, in the week I discovered I am sharing my house with a mouse, getting a cat has moved to the top of my list of priorities, though I realise I need to shift my focus from what I don't have to what I already have, and trust that the cat will come when we are both ready).

Apart from Bat for Lashes, David Byrne and St. Vincent's "Who" has been playing on repeat - just the one song; I haven't bought the album yet. When I first heard this it was via the video clip, so now the audio and visual are inextricably linked for me. I wonder to what extent watching the video for a song prior to a pure listening colours our experience of it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday at home


|  Simmering lemon, vanilla and rosemary. I burn essential oils almost every day, but occasionally I like to use the stovetop method. And it always strikes me how different the oils smell from the plants they are derived from. Today I needed to focus, and rosemary is great for concentration. I didn't have any fresh rosemary - that would have been even better.
|  Thinking of outlines as shared boundaries rather than lines is vital in learning how to draw and paint. Incidentally, I photographed this quote after spending a few hours doing black-and-white line drawings. I was given this book (Creative Scribbles - Where Dreaming and Drawing Cross Paths) recently by someone I had told I felt stuck - such a thoughtful present. It is filled with prompts such as "Don't think, just draw" or "Draw a brawl between four colours".
|  Still trying to manifest a cat sartorially and to perfect the shoulder stand (no picture). 


I may have posted this before, but I found this again while sorting through my bookmarks - Peggy Fogelman from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Bad Hair (4 min audio with slideshow). She was one of the speakers at a conference I went to earlier this year, and I looked up the Met's website afterwards - I love the Connections feature that Bad Hair is part of.