Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Quiet dark days with bursts of sunlight and colour

It seems to have become a recurring theme here for me to announce that I am sick again and that it must be my body telling me to slow down, that I need to deal with certain issues instead of waiting for their manifestation in illness. Thankfully it has never been anything serious - the worst would have been kidney infections.

So here I am transitioning into the new year with a bad dose of sinusitis. My running gear has been sitting in the wardrobe waiting for the day I am able to hit the beautiful country roads and forest paths here. I was going to add 'patiently' to 'waiting', but Stephen King has succeeded in making me think twice before I go near an adverb. This is always among the top ten writing tips, but I tend to forget. I am reading books I gave to family members a few years ago and liked the sound of, one of them King's On Writing. Maria Popova from Brain Pickings did a post on his thoughts on 'creative sleep'.

The new issue of Happinez magazine is out (it's a Dutch magazine, but there is a German version, too) and inspiring as always. I love watching Eckhart Tolle on youtube, and his column in Happinez often serves as a timely reminder of something I might have let slip: accepting what is, for example. I will do my best in 2014.

The brevity of daylight gets to me some days, but candles help (including real candles on our tree as per tradition), and there is something nice and restful about the darkness. We have been going out for short walks in the evening, not knowing what we are stepping on and into.

Instead of bemoaning the lack of exercise and my throbbing head and aching jaw, I can see this time for the bed of roses it is: Reading for hours, being surrounded by family and cats and cosy with a fire lit, well-fed, painting, playing Tori Amos piano music... And today I received a heartwarming e-mail from a relatively new friend who feels like an old friend - one of those friendships where a closeness and connection seems to precede the first actual meeting.

~Happy New Year to everyone reading! May 2014 be filled with light and beauty!~

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


 Made things (the gorgeous crochet hook made from sustainably harvested birch was a gift from my sister)

 "What would she draw tomorrow? A loaf. Roses. More fruit." 
(Madden, Deirdre, Nothing is Black, faber and faber, London 2013, p.151)

There was more about things and in particular artworks-as-things at the end of the book (I loved the ending), and some beautiful paragraphs about life in general, which I won't give away here.

On painting:

"'There are days when what I like most about painting is that you're making something solid at the end of it, and there are other days when I hate it, for that very reason.' [...] 'You work and you work and then you're left with all these things and you don't know what to do with them. It must be great to be a musician creating nothing more tangible than sound.'"

"'But what I love about [painting] too is just that: the energy of things [She goes on to talk about a Vermeer painting and its meaning "beyond words, beyond time"] To take things and make something charged with that sort of knowledge and energy. It's worth devoting your life to that.'" (ibid., pp. 139f.)

"'Painting's a bit like life [...] There's no point in just sitting there thinking about it. You have to get the paint on to the canvas. You may not like what you end up with; it may fall short of what you had thought or hoped it would be - in fact, it usually does. But at least there's something there; at least it's real.'" (pp.141f.)

I brought my paints with me to my mum's house (there are some here, too, but I need certain colours I might not be able to get here) and will start work on two commissions while I am here, with these words, especially the last few lines above, in my head.

~ Happy Christmas to everyone reading this, and thank you for visiting despite my haphazard posting schedule in the past year! ~

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Being and nothingness and things


"She thought of Giacometti, shocked out of domesticity for ever by an early confrontation with death. It began with a chance, brief meeting on a train with an elderly Dutchman. [...] They planned a journey together to Venice, but had scarcely set out when the elder man fell ill and died. Giacometti was twenty. The horror he felt on seeing the transition from being to nothingness would never leave him. In the face of certain annihilation, the clutter of domesticity was, to him, a monstrous lie. Why pretend life is anything other than transitory? Why pretend you are anything other than utterly alone in your existence?" 
(Madden, Deirdre: Nothing is Black, faber and faber, London 2013, p.109)

I have a difficult relationship with 'things'. Seeing interiors that reflect my taste, even collections of things, I can imagine happily inhabiting spaces filled with objects without perceiving them as a burden, and to a certain extent I do so in my house/sanctuary, but at the same time I always crave the freedom of less, and even the relatively small number of my own belongings can overwhelm me, for reasons expressed in the extract above - though I should add that my own view is nowhere near as bleak.

I do derive pleasure from new things and presents and adhere to the 'beautiful and/or functional' criteria (I include 'loving it' under 'beautiful'). And I have noticed that often it is simply a question of feng shui: the dead energy of things I need to let go of that are sitting somewhere with no purpose. Once they are gone, new things are welcomed in their place and used with enthusiasm.

Over the years I have acquired a couple of gadgety items that I like (a handheld blender comes to mind), but overall I keep them to a minimum - as a magazine article I read recently (in the new mindfulness magazine Flow my sister brought back from Germany) said, they can make life more hectic, despite their time-saving claims: when you expect every chore to be sped up or done for you, you don't give yourself the time out to do the task at hand and let your mind wander (or, even better, become absorbed in the task). I may whinge that my arm is sore from whisking egg whites sans kitchen machine, but it is much more satisfying this way.

A few days ago I sold a painting, and mixed in with the usual delight at having someone value what you create was the relief of 'one less painting taking up space in my house'. Art-making always means a lot of objects (both materials and creations), so the secret part of me that wants to be able to move around freely unburdened by material possessions would never be able to coexist with the artist me.

Apologies for the slightly depressing tone of this post just before Christmas (maybe brought on by the sheer quantity of things the pre-Christmas period spews out. Apart from that I love Christmas). I guess it is about traversing this strange transitory existence with these "necessary" lies, as the protagonist in Madden's book calls them, and which can give us security, but in the full knowledge of the truth, and not be weighed down by either. I am trying.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Skyping with kitten wrapped around my neck

This week I am catsitting Branwell. When he is not in play mode, attacking my face, feet and hands, he likes to nuzzle my neck while purring loudly. This must mean I am mother number 4 (after real mother, my sister and my brother-in-law); he is scenting me and claiming me as his.

On day two I got sick, and he accompanied me and watched as I vomited countless times. I like to think it was concern on his part, although it is more likely that it was simply tremendous fun with a novelty factor. He is wrapped around my neck as I am writing this - bad news for my back (although he weighs only 1.6 kg), but we have become very close friends. Apologies to my sister for calling him a monster (he has yet to learn the meaning of the word 'no' and a raised voice, or that a claw dug into the thin skin under my eye is not a good idea).


The Jumbo book is now available in Charlie Byrne's and the NUI Galway bookshop (thanks to the lovely staff there for putting it in the window display!). I am excited to be working on a new/old book for children - it started life as a children's show, and it will be great to have it in a printed format. More on that soon.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Scene from the weekend

Another week has gone by, and there has been more knitting and painting. We did one craft fair on Sunday, and there will be another one this weekend. The day itself did not really feel like work, and the hours flew by, but I was exhausted afterwards - as an introvert and Highly Sensitive Person any day surrounded by lots of people seems to have that effect. Too many stimuli. I took most of yesterday off - Monday often happens to be a day off for me* - and am looking forward to an Epsom salt bath tonight and the sauna tomorrow.

* Incidentally, I found out yesterday that Marc Allen doesn't do Mondays and finds that by Tuesday afternoon he is absolutely eager to work. I watched some Marc Allen youtube videos because I am re-reading Shakti Gawain (they co-founded New World Library). I like his work-with-ease approach. Apparently, he never works more than 20 hours a week. For many people that is not an option, but as someone who works part-time in her day job and in productive bursts at home, I can relate. You can get more done by doing less. And quiet time is so important to refill your "creative well", to use Julia Cameron's words, and let ideas emerge or develop.