Saturday, September 21, 2013

Good things

"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream." 
(opening sentence of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson)

Listening to: Eckhart Tolle on youtube. I like that he and Tara Brach, whose talks I also listen to a lot, can be very funny; it lightens the delivery of the content. The Power of Now remains one of my favourite books in its genre.

    In terms of music, I have been playing Anna von Hausswolff's "Mountains Crave" on repeat (I bought the album Ceremony). The church organ can be a bit of an acquired taste - I love what she does with it. Here is an interview with her.

Reading: I am haunted (sorry, I couldn't resist!) by Shirley Jackson's way with words (I had never heard of her before; my sister lent me the book). I can't wait to see the 1963 film based on the The Haunting of Hill House and read her other books.

Drinking: green tea with lemongrass, my new beverage obsession (also via my sister), the last of 2011's sloe gin in homeopathic doses, and, tonight, red wine instead of non-alcoholic beer. I rarely drink these days - even one glass can make me feel hungover the following day -, but I trust my instinct and will give in to my craving for earthy red (antioxidants and all that).

Looking forward to: autumn activities (not restricted to autumn), which will encompass hikes, sauna-and-swim sessions, picking sloes, making ghee, films, family visits, repotting plants, cozifying, gathering seaweed at neap tide (for compost) and a lot of reading.

* The photo and quote are a random juxtaposition - I enjoyed the rainy windy day in Ballyvaughan

Monday, September 16, 2013

Being and doing

I am trying to get out as much as I can when the weather is good - parallel to the autumnal chill there is still heat in the sun, and last week I spent hours sitting in sun-traps for al fresco lunches and reading -, but I also enjoy sunny days in my house, pottering about, painting, planning.

REAL peas my sister gave me (funny how accustomed we get to frozen produce)

a new project


Food preparation and drawing are my tonics of choice these days, and they have a lot in common. I'd been wanting to draw this boat for a while. The photograph it is based on has been my desktop background for months, and I always found myself staring at the loops and chains and ropes, knowing how much I would enjoy drawing them. Something about certain patterns - just looking at them makes me so happy, every time. And then, when drawing them, they are an instant gateway into flow. It's the same with shelling peas: the pleasing pattern and design, the acitivity of your fingers keeping you in this moment.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Stop and feed the horses (and pick the blackberries)

Last year almost every run I ventured out on was accompanied by my pedometer (it becomes addictive). Then I was getting pains in my knees and took a break from running. When I started again I did so according to the physio's instructions, alternating running and walking and taking it slowly. After a while I tried running with no walking breaks, and my knees were fine. So I thought I could get serious again, and I remembered the pedometer. But its battery had died, and I haven't replaced it yet.

I live in one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. My neighbourhood is a Tolkienesque wonderland with horses, donkeys, cows and dogs, and I do appreciate it every single day, but you are able to take in so much more when you are not racing along the paths and bogroads at great speed. Running sans pedometer has made me slow down again, and instead of focusing on times and kilometers, I have been on long walks with a bit of running in between and vice versa.

This year the blackberries are in abundance, and we have been picking them everywhere we spot them.  Last week I picked some during one such run-walk. Some runners attach weights to their wrists; little bags full of blackberries aren't that different (and they didn't turn into jam from all the bouncing). I watched caterpillars cross the road and said hello to the horses. I got lost on purpose. The endless chatter in my mind was turned off.

The endorphins and the feeling of accomplishment after a long sweaty run are hard to beat, but at the moment I prefer the quieter contentment of my random approach to exercise.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Happiness is... a new book


This week I finally treated myself to Judith Kerr's Creatures: A Celebration of her Life and Work, published in honour of her 90th birthday in June. What a treasure! While this is mainly for the sheer joy and pleasure of it, I also consider it essential reading for my work (not that I feel I have to justify this purchase, though it did come at a time when I had decided to work my way through a pile of unread books I already own before buying any new ones).

It is beautifully put together, down to details such as the endpaper - I have a slight obsession with endpaper - and imbued with Kerr's humanity and warmth. 

I was delighted to revisit the Mog story we had as a book when we were children, which is reproduced in its entirety - he's my favourite Creature. I hadn't looked at those pictures in years, and yet they were so familiar - it shows how intense a child's experience of a picture book is. I have a whole world of imagery from children's books nestled somewhere in my memory, and the shapes and lines and colours have become part of me.

The book is filled with Kerr's art, illustrations, sketches, photographs, notes and other memorabilia. She tells the story of her life and work herself, and I love her explanation of the title of the book, given opposite the frontispiece, a photograph of her family: "My Manx husband always referred to his parents as his creatures, so this title includes not only much-loved animals but also a much-loved family."

There are countless reasons I would love to have a cat again, and this book reminded me of one of them (see last photo above): that blissful feeling when painting/drawing/writing with a purring cat on your lap (who will occasionally decide to sit on whatever you are working on). One of the best things in life.