Friday, 27 May 2011

Opening Doors

Sometimes the synchronicities in life truly astound me. How does the Universe manage to send me her messages in many shapes and forms, telling me what I need to explore at that poignant moment in time?
This week I have seen keys everywhere! It began whilst browsing Pinterest, where I discovered a stunning necklace with an ornate key pendant at its heart; it really spoke to me, it felt important somehow but I wasn’t exactly sure why. After this I stumbled upon a promotion poster for the film Coraline, which has a large keyhole in the centre with the following profound words within:

The braver you are the more you’ll see.

This quote has had quite an impact on me. Unlocking the braveness within is an aspect of myself that I am working extremely hard on. I am an introvert. I like my own company and if I am honest with you, having to go into the outside world can often fill me with much dread. I am not great in crowds, I am pretty rubbish at parties or gatherings and new, unfamiliar experiences have me worrying days and nights in advance. I like to hide, to keep my head down, I like to listen and people watch. But the thing is that sometimes I have to make myself go out into the big wide world because I know there is so much to learn and enjoy. I have to be brave in order to see the riches the world has to offer and in order to kindle and nurture joy within myself.

So last night was a time to be brave as the opportunity arose to go to a Richard Marx concert at the Birmingham Symphony Hall. The beautiful music of Richard Marx has accompanied my throughout my life, for every song of his I have a memory- pretty special that. I dreamed and dreamed and dreamed some more of seeing him in concert as a teenager so this was a chance to actually grant myself a wish, if only I could make myself go and not let the anxiety dragons conquer. And you know what, I managed it! The concert was absolutely awesome. His support singer was John Parr, of St Elmo’s Fire fame,  and that was worth the ticket price in itself for he is a cool dude indeed. As for Richard himself - well they don’t make them like that in the music industry anymore and that is for sure. Not only was his voice stirring, so full of passion and honesty, even after all these years, but the man had an brilliant connection with the audience, it was like he was there to just hang out with each and every one of us.  At one point he unplugged his guitar, stepped away from the microphone and sat on the edge of the stage to sing; you could have heard a pin drop. It was beautifully personal, magical. I am so glad I managed to unlock that brave door for the night.

The icing on the messages cake is the story of Bluebeard, which I read this morning  in Women Who Run With Wolves, with its mysterious key as leitmotif. Estes invites the reader to unlock the door inside which holds the negative part of our minds, which houses the harsh, hard, difficult thoughts, memories and experiences. Estes speaks of the need to recognise what horrible monsters may be lurking there, to acknowledge them so you can protect yourself by dealing with them, keeping them in control instead of letting them run riot and taking over. She argues that we can smooth over the cracks and pretend to ourselves that everything is fine but that if we really want to know ourselves, to really connect with that creative wild woman, to really be free, then we must choose to open that door, armed for battle. In the story the magical door only opens when the main character asks herself what the extra key she has been given might be for and what might be behind the door belonging to the key. She asks questions to explore and set herself free. I really like the idea of that as so often I see my questions as over thinking, over annalysing, not as something fruitful in the long term.  The poor woman has to go through a pretty horrid time once she does discover what is there, but in the end she is the stronger, more connected for having faced her demons. Once she stops being so very afraid she is charged with soul power, with a fierce determination, with grit. She even manages to turn her story to her advantage. What a warrior! I shall leave you with my favourite paragraph from the chapter-  this is what I want to experience:

“...the psychic key, the ability to ask any and all questions, about oneself, about ones family, one’s endeavors.... Then like a wildish being who sniffs things out, snuffles into and under and around to discover what a thing is, a woman is free to find trues answers to her deepest and darkest questions. She is free to wrest the powers from the thing which has assailed her to turn those powers, which were once  used against her, to her own well suited and excellent uses. That, is a wildish woman.”

- Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


This week Bella's prompt is simply but beautifully 'water'. Ideally I would have taken gorgeous sunset coastal shots, but I do not have the luxury and honour of being at one with the sea at this moment in time. Therefore I opted for the next best thing for me; a deep bath, full to the brim with soothing bubbles. Water for me means peace, time to reflect, time to be myself and in fact to just be. 

Friday, 20 May 2011

Dear Diary

Recently I have diving into my memories in a big way: trying to come to terms with some, reclaiming others, uncovering ones, which had slipped into the depths of my mind, hiding from me. There is a lot of my past, which I am still dealing with, those memories (often   still open wounds) are nearly as fresh as the days the injuries occurred. I am used to reliving them when they jump out to taunt me. However, whilst doing this memory work through Finding Your Voice, I am realising that there  are many positive memories, which haven’t seen the light of day for a long time, which I had totally forgotten about, not being able to access them because of the dominating negativity. So when the first flash of a happy memory occurred, I began to wonder if there were more such moments. I dug out my box of old diaries and began to read the one belonging to  the sixteen year old me. Oh my goodness, that diary was one of such celebration, such a thirst for life, sprinkled with eagerness, the need to learn and  full to the brim with connection. Of course it contained pages of insecurities, especially of loneliness and helplessness, but these were not dominant, they were just there, being dealt with- the treasures of life were in the forefront. I was  eager to record each new experience; each new song or poem or book or television series, pages and pages of friendship declarations and snippets of magazine articles that captured my imagination. Sixteen year old Milena has a lot to teach me. 

I looked into the diaries of recent years, all written in one colour, no pictures, a few recordings of memorable occasions but no zest for the every day. Instead such seriousness and a lot of the trials of adulthood, a lot of over thinking and over analysing. The insecurities and worries weighed so heavily. I know life changes, I know I can’t avoid the adult everyday life, but surely there is much more to my diary writing. I longed to read sixteen year old Milena’s diary, it filled me with warmth. I didn’t have any such feeling looking at the adult Milena’s writing. I don’t need to step back into time nor linger too much in nostalgia, but I do need to reclaim that spirit, that connection to life, that dealing with hard stuff and moving on to celebrate the goodness. So I have made myself a promise, from now on I shall write in different colours, I shall cut and stick, I shall make sure that those lovely times get fully recorded. I won’t ignore the bad times because writing them down is therapy for me, I need to write in order to understand myself and others, but I will make more of a concerted effort to move on because life goes on, as Noah and the Whale so brilliantly sing. 
Something else I realised when reading those early diaries was that my core passions haven’t changed all that much, I have added to them but a lot of the same simple pleasures still make my heart sing. I looked at the front covers and remembered just how much of a stationary addiction I had then, how much pleasure I took into choosing new journals, new pens and so forth. So you know what, I treated myself to a stationary splurge on the simply amazing Papernation website. My parcel arrived yesterday and I was in heaven. Honestly, I couldn’t stop smiling at those pretty items, ready to make them mine. The photo at the beginning of this piece is of a part of that order. I realised that I deny myself so much; because of money issues, because I deem other things more important to invest in. But stationary makes me so happy! Lesson learned. 

Then I read about my experiences in Germany during the many summer holidays I spent there, and the sights and smells and tastes came flooding back. I don’t make an effort to purchase German food, but why not if the sheer thought of  Milchschnitten ( the lightest honey based biscuit filled with a light cream filling), a supply of which  my Omi always kept in her fridge, ready for me to snaffle, makes me smile. With the wonders of the internet I could fulfill this wish easily, with a few clicks  I placed an order with the German Deli. It has just arrived and I feel excited! It does all sound like a bit of retail therapy but I promise you it isn’t, it is reclaiming good and honest joy. In those moments I  do feel like a joy warrior.

(My very talented friend Lis of Dandelion Seeds and Dreams sent me this card)

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A ray of light

This week's fabulous prompt is 'a ray of light'. I love exploring the relationship between light and shadow very much, especially when there is coloured glass or  a crystal involved too. My interpretation is of a light catcher hanging on the front of my rather dilapidated garden shed, which carries the words 'may there be peace'.

Friday, 13 May 2011


For years I have been struggling with a chronic tiredness, which quite often leaves me unable to be as active as I want to be, to give as much energy to projects and my work as I possibly can, to get to the bottom of those to do lists and to live life to the full. How often I compare myself to others, who seem to manage everything regardless, I admire them greatly and see them as super heroes.  I felt like that again this morning and all the insecurities of not being a good enough woman rose to the surface, all the frustration of not managing to live my day as I had it perfectly planned in my head, gave the day that dark edge, which I dread so much. However then I read another chapter of Women Who Run With Wolves,  this time on nourishing our creative lives, and it is not an understatement to say that I had another mini revelation. Thank goodness for wise words when you really need them. Reading that actually it is ok to stop and rest, that it is part of our cycles, that we need to do so to refocus, turned my whole perspective on its head. It took the edge off my panic and helplessness. In a way it gave me some ownership over what I experience. Estes writes that fatigue is nature, not failure or inadequacy. Just nature. I can deal with that.

Another concept that is addressed in this chapter concerns renewing intention and strengthening it.  Once again an analogy of nature makes things crystal clear. We are told to cut away the deadwood to make the tree grow stronger. I do this all the time in my garden and am amazed over and over again how luscious, how vibrant, how much larger than life a tree or shrub becomes once it doesn’t have to deal with the branches that are sucking its energy  away. Look for what is not working for you, hindering you from shining brightly, get rid of it now and grow. I love the simplicity of that. When I thought about it I realised that I am currently doing my usual trick of trying to do too much, juggling too many things; sometimes because I want to, like my creative projects and sometimes because life demands it of me. Of course juggling makes me tired. Narrowing down my priorities, and doing one thing well, one thing at a time, instead of many things with little energy- that is a huge lesson to be learned and relearned again.

The other element of refocusing and strengthening which I took from the chapter is that it is fine to sit with an idea,  to spend time with it, to  “take the idea and rock it to and fro” until that idea is ready to be out there. So often I feel that I must complete something at all costs, that I am up against  time constraints, and I must keep up with this relentless schedule. But actually, to listen to when a creation, a thought, a piece of writing is ready, makes a lot of sense as it will be richer, stronger, more a part of me.  
I am off to write today, to immerse myself in the incredible Finding Your Voice e- course by Jen Lee, which is opening so many doorways for me, and which will lead me to many a future blog post. Incidentally, she also speaks of nourishing an idea, taking time to shape and nurture it, to decide whether it is ready to be released into the universe. Another wise woman to learn from indeed. So writing is my goal for today. Just the one goal. All day. Anything else I achieve is a bonus.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

I found it on the ground

This week's prompt is 'I found it on the ground'. Contributing something that was not my usual garden style shot was trickier than I thought it would be . Then I remembered this tile, which I bought because of its powerful message: Carpe Diem, seize the day! A lesson I need to be reminded of often.

Friday, 6 May 2011

An art class memory

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about why I never chose to pursue art after finishing secondary school. All of my childhood was spent creating, dreaming of being an artist, being totally immersed for hours and hours in my creations. Yet somehow by the time I had left school it wasn’t even an option anymore. It really took some digging but the conclusion I came to was that my GCSE art teacher, and the curriculum at the time, played huge factors in extinguishing that fire within in me for years and years. The idea of not being good enough to succeed was planted most firmly, and so I took the academic route instead, knowing that I could excel at this. Exploring my creative path could well have been an opportunity for expression and release of emotions, which I so badly needed to do during some pretty dark times.

The memory that has risen to the surface is not an earth shattering moment when all fell apart, but rather a lingering infusion of feeling second rate. Each piece that I attempted was met with criticism, not constructive criticism, which I could develop and grow with, but comments that let me know that my style, my imagination, did not fit in with achieving a high grade. Every time I created I had this thought of ‘Will it be good enough this time?’ endlessly circling in my mind, and subconsciously I began to turn my artwork into what I believed my teacher wanted to see. I began to please her rather than expressing myself. Not detailed enough. Too much colour. The perspective is all wrong. You can’t paint in that way. Look at your friend’s work as she has done what I have asked. All these  horrid comments over and over again, and I am sure there were many more. I do admit I was a sensitive child, therefor everything was very much taken to heart. But shouldn’t a good teacher have recognised this? She was a voice I trusted, whose voice I didn’t doubt in the slightest because of the faith I had in teachers. Examining her motives in retrospect, I believe she must have had self esteem issues of her own, a real need to have that position of power  in order to voice such harsh words, to make an unsure teen feel even more inadequate.
The memory mad me think in a lot of detail about my own teaching style, how I hope with all my heart that I never make the children I work with feel that way. Encouragement, warmth and connection are vital. Only when a child feels safe and welcome can constructive criticism take place. I want my children to become confident in their expression, to become independent learners, who are not afraid of what their teacher might say.

It sounds a bit silly now that I am adult, but even today the idea of doing an art qualification fills me with such dread, even though I really want to develop my skills. I am creating lots and lots and have found a safe arena for my creations on this blog, on blogs of other creatives and in the e courses of some amazing mentors. But as for physically going to a class and learning, I shake my head in doubt. Lis of Dandelion Seeds and Dreams posted a wonderful video recently, in which she stated that from quite early on in her life she had this thought of ‘I should know all this’ and how this then had a negative impact on her asking to learn something new, however much she loved the subject. I am rather a lot like that, I feel like I should know so much more about art tools, techniques and styles. Be it painting, mixed media or even photography,  the fear of asking in case I get told again that I am not good enough is still so raw. However, if I am brave, I do have the knowledge to ask what ‘good enough’ constitutes! Surely art is one creative rainbow learning journey, and it is so subjective that one person’s ‘wrong’ is another person’s favourite piece of art. If someone creates something to express themselves then it is art, whether you can connect with it is each individual's choice. I would love to time travel back to that unquestioning teenager and whisper that question in her ear.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


Here is my entry for this week's 52 Photos Project. The prompt 'colour' really speaks to me as my artwork and photography seems to be developing a signature of an increasingly vibrant colour palette. I am rather addicted to the colours of the rainbow at the moment.

The 'pocket rainbow' is by The Rainbow Room ; I really do love the idea of keeping a jolly rainbow in your pocket for when life needs an injection of positivity!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

A friendship day

Purposefully, I delayed my weekly  post this week as  I knew how wonderful today would be and I wanted to share some of that loveliness on my blog. You see today I finally managed to meet the charming Helen of Dixon Hill in the gorgeous setting of Haworth, Bronte country. 

I am astounded what an impact the online creative community has had on my life. I met Helen for the first time in Susannah Conway’s Unravelling class online and so this was a very special day to meet my friend in person! There I was,  meeting someone for the first time, who I already knew so much about,  and admired  deeply, without having talked to her or even having heard her voice. Needless to say Helen was even lovelier in real life than I could imagine her to be. My life feels so much richer through the friendships that are forming through these creative tribes, I know for certain that I wouldn’t be as inspired or as committed to my creativity without these wonderful, strong, inspiring women like Helen who reach out so warmly. Having spent a few hours in her company, my head is buzzing with ideas from working on going to a creative retreat, to creating a more dedicated space for my art work,to finally grasping the nettle and learning how to use my sewing machine!
Haworth itself was a gorgeous setting with its cobbled streets and friendly looking shops. Needless to say I felt the need to purchase the odd item as a reminder of a lovely day such as the polished glass piece below, which sits proudly on my desk now. 

As it was the day after the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate, there were many street bunting flags fluttering merrily in the breeze. 

Whilst on the subject of the wedding, I must take a tangent and say what a glorious occasion it was. I thoroughly enjoyed celebrating with the majority of the nation as this young couple with so much potential for the future, married in  elegance and with such a connection between them. So often Britain is in the news for negative reasons so it was a really pleasant change to feel really proud of a day when the nation did something well; be it the cheerful street parties, the sheer beauty of the occasion or the celebration of traditions in all their glory.
Back to Haworth, if you ever visit there you must have lunch at Cobbles and Clay, a cafe come pottery painting establishment,  which serves really tasty homemade food, using fairtrade products along with  locally sourced ingredients. uI always remember a place by what I have eaten there, strange but true, and I never wanted my caramelised onion and goats cheese tart to end ;)
Of course Helen showed me the moors she loves so much, they were absolutely breathtaking. I could imagine wondering for hours amongst the stunning scenery with its rich textures and colours. Helen is fabulous photographer of the moors so you must take a look at her website to do this striking environment justice.

Although there wasn’t time to visit the Bronte museum this time, I couldn’t resist taking a quick shot of the museum sign. I thought  the silhouette against the backdrop of trees was a most beautiful sight at the end of a really lovely outing.