My short story “Tenderness” was included in the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival‘s “Worth The Wait” ebook in September.
My short story “Tenderness” was included in the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival‘s “Worth The Wait” ebook in September.
We will be planting sunflower seeds all down the wire fence of two city wasteland areas near our home. And in several weeks time, there will appear seedlings and shoots followed by giant sunflowers smiling at everyone who passes and thinks, “how did those sunflowers get there?”.
And this simple thing will bring smiles to hundreds of people and perhaps the wildly surprising sight of giant sunflowers, heavy with yellow petals and seeds will bring unexpected hope to fatigued minds.
If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere get yourself a pack of Sunflower seeds for mere cents / pence, find a piece of twig to use as a dibbet (thing to make a hole in the ground for your seed) and plant your seeds in forgotten, abandoned or neglected areas. Plant either in the rain or after the rain when the soil is still wet. You will be surprised at the *thrill* guerilla gardening brings.
Sunflowers, flower of children and simplicity, bees and butterflies, are easy to grow. Of course you might want to check the tiny plants now and again so you can feel your heart swell with the growing seedhead. If you plant your seed next to a wasteland fence you can tie the growing stems to the fence to secure them to stand tall.
I’m sure you can see that quite apart from the simple joy you will bring to others, you are making a soulful statement about bringing simple joy to the world and actively planting seeds of happiness in those forgotten, abandoned or neglected areas of your heart.
Guerilla gardening for the soul, planting seeds of boldness, you watching your happiness grow in the sunshine, giant sunflowers staked against wasteland fences,. It’s a beautiful thing.
Today in Scotland we’re having a festive season embellished with piles of snow and wonderment. Days off school and work, a feeling of coziness in our homes, doors closed tight against freezing winds, curtains open wide to giant snowflakes cascading. Crunching through deep snow piles, slipping gracefully on ice and managing to catch ourselves before falling over.
This is the season when we are always surprised – by the weather, the kindness of those around us, expressions of love, traditions old and newly-created like an advent calendar sent across the Atlantic, new pyjamas for Christmas Eve. We are encouraged to ballet dance on thin ice, sip cups of too-hot hot chocolate and hold loved ones close.
There are many other lovely surprises – any one of which might be just a moment away for you right now. Who knows what wonderful thing is about to happen?
View the video clip above for your instant glorious, random act of daily inspiration. When I watched it, my eyes teared up and my throat got all thick and swollen – yay!
From Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non Conformity – the most beautiful sharp-intake-of-breath-inducing statement I’ve read so far this week:
I’ve had a good year and don’t need any more money. I’m extremely fortunate, grateful, and even blessed to be able to write for a living and tour the world meeting fun people. Even though I’m an entrepreneur myself and don’t think there’s anything wrong with making money, I always try to be conscious of how much money I need and how much is just extra.
Read the rest of the wise one’s words in context in his post from Anchorage, Alaska.
Image – original charcoal drawing “I don’t know where I am going …” part of a series of works by Lee Tracy.
You know how you can just be mooching about a website, aimless, (which is very nice) and something piques your interest and you have a closer look and next thing your mouth opens, you take a sharp intake of breath and suddenly the whole world is a more magnificent place?
This exquisite short film gorgeously directed by Pascal Perich with ‘Whispering Trees’ music composition by Marcy Hokama follows the beautiful gentle soul that is painter and sculptor, Jason Tennant who is such an inspirational example of being what you believe and aligning your life with your values that I wanted to share him with you.
Jason gathers vintage, sinewy remains of American Chestnut trees, cut in the 1930′s in an attempt to save the forest from blight, carries them in his arms back to his workshop cabin in the woods and then he honors these natural masterpieces with his potent artistic spirit, sculpting them into wildly majestic art.
“I look for really deep forests that look like they haven’t been tampered with for at least 50 years” says Jason. “I try to tell a story; nature vignettes ….. I want to maintain a sense of wildness in my work.”
In this beautiful film, created for Etsy as part of its This Handmade Life series, Jason talks quietly about his ethos – in creating his “Nike of The Forest” series he says “the Greek Nike is one of my favorite gestures … it’s a hopeful choice, a triumph of the balance of humans and nature ….humans learning to respect nature so we can temper our greed, so we can maintain this beautiful planet for our children.”
Andrea is the coach I most admire and appreciate on the internet today. She seems to constantly create and share a beautiful, vibrating feeling of love and abundance, creativity and spirituality. I signed up for Andrea's Creativity 101 e-course - it is spectacular (+free!) and her honey-voiced, guided meditations have reduced me to lovely, healing tears.
Andrea is an artist, a creative journaler, creativity workshop facilitator, meditator and coach. Please be good to yourself today and visit Andrea's online place of miracles-waiting-to-happen-for-you, ABCcreativity.]
“What I love about Inner Wild Therapy is that the posts here flow into that deep space beyond words. Right now, The Case for Constraint is speaking to something deep inside me.
For several years as a struggling artist, I saw day jobs as the devil and did everything I could do avoid them. I would not be constrained.
I had no idea that the very thing I rebelled so much against, the day job, was the very thing that would move me forward and onward and into fabulous new worlds and experiences i couldn’t even see from my day job-less world.
When I got that day job, seven years ago, I swore it was only temporary.
But as I settled into the routine of an employed person, my creativity began to soar. Constrained, for sure. My days weren’t free for art anymore. But when it was time for art – I was focused. I was clear. I was more productive as an artist when I had a full time job! Who would have thought?
New art supplies. Courses. Retreats. Stability. Routine. Growth. The biggest constraint, the day job, turned into my best tool for creating a life that feels right for me. It was like a little incubator. And as I grew stronger and my creative work great bigger, the incubator got smaller and I shifted into part time work.
I am coming up to the part now where it’s time to let the day job go completely. To release the constraint and fly free. And this part is so much harder than I ever would have thought. Every day I am stunned about how much there is to process in letting this part of my life go.
This is it. Freedom. No constraints.
And I know I’m ready. Or I’m getting ready anyway. I’m planning to leave my job by the end of the year. But in the meantime I am so really fully completely aware of how beneficial the constraint has been. The safety and nurturing of it. The familiarity.
And then I get to this part in The Case for Constraint.
And that means our creative power can explode like a new universe from a black hole.
Well yeah. On the other side of the constraint there is this magnificent explosion of creative delight. That alone is worth going into a constrained period, isn’t it? To go from the grey office day job to having this as my workspace:
Creative explosion of delight.
But really what it’s all coming down to for me is that this can’t be separated. Constraint and freedom are partners. I’ll always have both and how comfortable can I really get with that fact?
There are ebbs and flows. There is downtime. There are reasons to contract. Just like there are reasons to expand and create and enjoy. There has to be balance. All I can really do is listen to my life, listen to my heart, do my best to do what feels right and trust what shows up – if it’s constraint or freedom or success or stillness or a big mess or a totally amazing adventure.
Image “i know who i am” borrowed by me from Andrea’s Art Exhibit: “let’s all live happily ever after, a celebration of life, possibility and dreams about to come true” which I just discovered is on redbubble – available for sale as Greeting Cards, Matted Prints, Laminated Prints, Mounted Prints, Canvas Prints and Framed Prints. For stories about Andrea’s series of darling & inspiring paper dolls, creativity blog, art journaling videos, online creativity workshops and guided meditations visit ABCcreativity.
Recommended: listen to David Bowie’s beautiful rendition of Wild is the Wind by Dimitri Tiompkin and Ned Washington while reading.
It’s so easy to forget about nature and the wild forces that are the backdrop to our tiny life plays and sit-coms.
We knew it was windy. We even heard the shipping forecast that morning spoken in hushed, hypnotizing tones telling of gale force 11 winds gusting to … something, I forget now. And out we went loving the gusting, the big breezes and the clouds spinning in the sky as though the universe in which our Earth resides was a centrifuge.
Off we went, skipping, to walk the dog with — what else but a huge, bright pink balloon? I made absolutely no connection at the time about the powerful affinity of the wind and a helium-filled balloon.
Let me introduce you to the balloon. My child had given it a name. I’ll just let that notion sink in for you. OK, it was called “Alice”. And Alice had already had many adventures as a balloon-person with a pink ribbon tail and a face drawn in black felt pen – it was a “she” and my child had chirruped various stories about Alice.
She was doing this when suddenly I heard “MY BALLOON!”. Balloon? Oh yes ‘she’ was a balloon and here she was, no – I mean there she WAS for now she was already metres up in the air and as I felt relief flood me that some angel had stopped my child from instinctively reaching for the escaping balloon and her pink ribbon which would have taken her onto the road, I also felt the rising of a quagmire of conflicting emotions.
It was exhilarating watching Alice the pink balloon with a felt-pen drawn face and pink ribbon zipping higher and higher, further and further away with a speed that had our mouths hanging open.
The wind. The wind had snatched Alice and she, so floatily, fit-to-bursting full of lighter than air helium was crescendoing with her natural element. We stared, we saw again the pale gray clouds slewing like a torrential, flooded river across a vast sky. Alice the balloon becoming smaller and smaller in our sight as she was carried by air currents higher and further away, away, away, northwards.
It was exhilarating to imagine how that must feel, to be in the wind and part of it, losing yourself to it, having no sense of where you end and the wind begins (I am an Air sign, can you tell?!) the freedom of flying with no attachment, being freed from a ribbon anchoring bond to earth via a child’s hand.
But it was also achingly sad. We were bereaved. We weren’t ready for Alice to go, to be snatched away so suddenly in her prime, not even a little deflated yet. A shock. Watching her, a lone, alone little balloon person in a vast sky of gray wind was stunningly upsetting. How awful it would be to be so alone in such vastness.
We stood and watched and in about a minute Alice was so far away she disappeared completely. Gone.
What would happen to her?
I will spare you the hideous thoughts of seals choking on a pink balloon burst on rocks in the North Sea or a small plane crashing because of a large balloon being sucked into an engine. I could make a very long list here of horrible consequences but notice I am not. That way desperate sadness lies.
I began a monologue about Alice dancing with the wild air currents, soaring and sliding, moving so fast she might make it all the way to Greenland, or Sweden, Norway or, if the wind changed direction, America even.
Alice was going wherever the wind took her, floating high and light and with no attachment whatsoever, the dangle of her pink ribbon a kite tail now. She was filled with air, like the wind, but helium weighs less that the wind I said.
My child was sad – but good, healthy sad. And she did not fixate on the balloon that was Alice nor the excitement of the wind and so it all seemed fine. Natural.
All things have their own lifetime, short or long and we need not grieve when they go for something else awaits to replenish our joy if we can but see it instead of staring too long after a disappeared balloon and wallowing in the torment of relating ourselves to imagined things like Alice’s situation, projecting our own neuroses on it with what might happen to Alice, for example, as though we were experiencing it ourselves. (This is one of the down-sides of having a well-honed creative imagination.)
The positive carefree soaring high was as powerful and real as the sad sense of bereavement and loss. Both are important emotions to feel and deserving of attention.
As humans we are made to, like flowers and plants, always turn to the sun; to please the mind with thoughts of wonderment and things that make us happy, to notice in things as bizarre as the sudden flight of a pink balloon named Alice with a felt pen face ways we can be braver, better and more inspired. And always know that nature is with us, helping us and showing us if we simply watch and allow ourselves to feel – to be like a beautiful balloon tossed and rushed by emotional forces, going with them, letting them blow all around us not matter how stormy or conflicted they feel because we are human and being human is a fine thing.
Perhaps like you, I resent being thwarted or trapped by some external constraint.
I have often rushed at these immovable things like a bull at a gate, with the same results of a sore head.
However, that was until recently. I’ve discovered, through nature, how fruitful such solid outside constraints can be. Twice this year I’ve seen the kind of ripe power that can burst forth after a period of life-strangling tight confinement.
‘How strange that constraint can create a build-up of awesome energy’ I thought (completely forgetting about bondage restraints and water dams) as I watched my “winter pansies” and “Lidl strawberries” produce flowers and fruits at an accelerated rate after my negligent containment of them.
I bought fifty tiny “winter colour” seedlings ultra-cheap from a Guardian offer in the Autumn. I potted them up with zealot gardener dedication.
But I was too late getting them into the flowerbeds and between one hard frost and another, followed by inches of snow on frozen ground, too cold and hard to gouge the trowel into, they were abandoned in their tight little containers.
In the Spring I noticed they seemed to still be alive, had even managing a bud or two in their tiny cells. I planted them out randomly in the garden and in the window boxes, what the hey.
Whoo-o! Within two days they were three times their size, bursting with new leaf and bigger buds, new buds and some had even flowered! They embraced their liberation with a force they must have been building and building after surviving the dormant freeze of wintertime. They have since produced flourishes of bright, joyful flowers for several months.
Similarly, the box of strawberry seedlings a friend gave me a couple of months ago which became root-bound. I fretted mildly about where to plant them and putting straw around the plants and what about losing them to our snails and slugs who rampage with full territorial rights through our garden and was there any point really in planting them out at all?
What a thing to admit to! And yet it reminds me of the fears we sometimes have about starting any creative project – our mind throws up all kinds of possible obstacles and fears which often prevent us from doing anything at all.
What is the point of spending hours of my life on this novel if it is never published? What is the point of buying a paint set if I never have time to paint? And so on, you get the idea.
I planted the strawberries out last week and already there are bunches of hard creamy strawberries beginning to blush with pink – the bright red one of a few days ago has already been eaten by a mouse or bird.
There are so many basic and complex examples of solid, external circumstances that confine and constrain us in our lives in just the same way ice forms in the stems of pansies. A lack of funds, the death of someone, a locked door, a phone not answered, a Visa expired, love rejected, a bus that breaks down.
So often our response is to try to fight the constraint, push it away. Maybe even deny it altogether. And yet look what nature tells us about the power external constraint can give us. If we freeze, pause a little and then allow ourselves to build our energy it will be there as a huge reserve you can let burst when external circumstances change, as change they will.
I am going to be more pansy and strawberry plant like from now on when I’m forced by external circumstance and situation to be dormant, pull my feelers in, remain alert and unmoving – be patient within a prolonged pause.
I am not talking here about in-between fallow periods. I am talking about those very real, very tangible forces outside of ourselves that stop us in our tracks and which we cannot change by force or any other method.
If my pansies or strawberries had fought against their confinement they would have lost a large reserve of stored energy. Instead, by pressing a natural ‘pause’ button they have given themselves the energy reserve to, at the slightest lessening of their confinement, burst forth with a huge force of raw, flowering and fruitful power.
And so it is with us. Instead of fretting and fighting about a confinement we might have – traveling to work, a difficult relationship, a tight deadline, an enemy setting us up for a fall, a pay freeze, a drain on cash flow – so many situations come up in life that press our ‘pause’ button.
I’ve noticed that many people advocate pushing through these forced constraints and I agree it is a good idea to test the strength of it initially. But then we must pause and wait, always knowing the release may not come but quietly containing our energy so we are ready for the dam bursting, the bonds removed, the money flowing and we can enjoy the hugely magnified power we had in only in potential before the constraint.
Constraints are good. They dam our creative power. And that means our creative power can explode like a new universe from a black hole.
If you, like me, are hoping that the photographer, Kalpana Chatterjee, who captured the image above immediately pulled out a pair of wire cutters and cut that barbed wire right off, you are only showing the positive spirit of humanity that has us always turning towards life and growth. Let us imagine the divine release and how the tree sap flowed after that snipping.
“Why do things die, mama?”
My child and I had walked and talked for about ten minutes after finding a young fox dead on the roadside before she asked this question.
We were on a nature walk, an “adventure” and I gasped when I saw it lying there, all soft chestnut fire glory against hard grey tarmac and sharp curb.
So extraordinarily beautiful. So young, only just an adult, smooth, soft, mange-free fur and white teeth, brand new. Still warm, but dead.
Cars whizzed past, fast. I picked the fox up, its head flopped and I cradled it, blood dripping a little from its mouth.
I carried it and laid it reverently in some bough-heavy bushes, curled it around nose-to-tail as though it was sleeping, closed its eyes.
My daughter wanted to touch it too. I was proud of her. We stroked it. Her emphasis was on its wild eyes. Mine was on its youth and splendor.
We talked about it being an instant, painless death, that looking at the road, the driver couldn’t have stopped in time. We noticed the globy blood splatters. My girl asked would the fox’s parents be looking for it?
I began to cry, just a little. I was thinking of the utter, desolate waste. The youth and vitality, the care the fox’s parents would have taken to protect, feed and teach this little one through cold Spring and wet days and nights of scarce pickings. And now too quick across the road and gone.
My quiet tears as we walked were not just for this young, healthy, fit fox. They were for my own death kisses: my dogs, my cats, my mother, my self, my best friends, a boy I found dead in his car, who had fed a hose from his exhaust pipe in a lonely place . Suicides, bizarre accidents, fatal medical mistakes.
I don’t mind at all that my child sees my tiny tears or feels my sadness. I think of other children who are not given opportunities to see and feel raw, wild life and learn about death gently at first through the natural world. Who do not go on nature walks. Death on a nature walk, what could be more natural?
We have ten minutes of discussing the fox, sudden death and the consequences for everyone involved, my child asking me all kinds of questions.
And then she asks me, as she has asked me several times before, “why do things die, mama?” And I say, without hesitation, “because without death there is no life”.
I use my quaint, simplistic theory of opposites to explain things a lot. Without darkness light doesn’t exist. And yet, when we happen upon death suddenly and unexpectedly as grown-ups we are thrown out of our complacency. Children accept.
I feel odd writing about our young fox – and this is a documented syndrome you know, that when you happen upon a dead body you feel a primal sense of needing to protect it, an askew sense of it being your responsibility – I think of him still curled up and getting wet in the rain, I wonder should I have carried him all the way home and buried him here though that didn’t feel at all right at the time. I feel a little dishonorable documenting our experience in a blog post.
All of this is perhaps less about the natural, wild fox still in his natural element in the bushes and more about the wondering over death his has stirred up in me.
Yet, I want to say that I am glad we came upon the fox when we did, that it was us and not some other, stray dogs even.
I am grateful that the fox in his death gave several gifts to my child: a chance to touch wild, to stare at stillness, to learn about death in all of its complexity, to honor the found dead, respect and revere them – and more, that crossing roads is a dangerous thing, impulse must sometimes be tempered, consequences of decisions can be catastrophic …
I see her beautiful mind absorbing all of this. And she does not cry. As with so many other things, she understands it all far better than I.