Friday, 25 March 2011


Oh my goodness, for the first time in my life I have won something, and something very special at that! Leah of Creative Every Day, whose artwork is so deeply beautiful, picked me as her give away winner for the new e course Sparkles, created by Jamie Ridler and full to the brim with contributions from the most inspiring artists, teachers and thinkers I have come across. Thank you Leah, you are such a star.  It is a self paced course, giving you the opportunity to take 5 minutes each day to find a creative outlet, and it is just what I need at the moment when things feel hectic and I am tempted to put creativity on the back burner. Click here to find out more. Here is my piece for yesterday’s prompt; I do love the soothing qualities of using Instagram for the iphone, those pretty filters create magic :)

Yaga Dreams

So, I am still very much hooked on the whole intuition thing, which I began to write about last week. The story of Vasilisa the Wise, her doll of intuition and her fundamentally life changing visit to the house of the wild woman Baba Yaga, just won’t leave me alone.  One of the ideas that seems to have struck such a chord is the dreaming aspect of the story. Basically V is given certain tasks to perform for Yaga, in return for which she will be granted the fire she needs for her (horrid) stepfamily. Really, the fire that V will be given, is the fire to tap into her wild woman self, but that is another story. Anyway, some of these tasks seem impossible at first sight, such as separating an intimidating pile of dirt and poppy seeds, but instead of only seeing the impossibility, only seeing the one negative line of reasoning, the doll tells V to go to sleep and all will be well. When she awakes the seeds are sorted. Pinkola Estes explains this part of the story as taking time to listen to your intuition and that answers will often appear in dreams. In fact she says that the wild Yaga might herself appear to guide you if you are receptive enough, if you dare to listen. 
As I read this I had one of those A HA moments for I have been having the most incredibly strong (and very weird) dreams of late. I struggle to sleep but in those small hours I do sleep, these strangely magnificent story boards are appearing and I am still remembering them when I wake up. This has been going on for several weeks now; they have made me listen. Interpreting them is a whole different kettle of fish - abstract is an understatement! But just thinking about the elements involved is supplying me with an incredible amount of insight into what I am holding back, what I am not digesting in my waking hours and, indeed on a positive note, what I want to happen in my life. I love the idea of having an intuition doll ( although of course I think mine would have to be a feline), whispering to take a step back and listen, followed by the wild and wacky Yaga zooming through the night sky, sprinkling those riddled images on her way, daring me to begin the puzzles. 
The illustration is from Jan Pienkowski's The Fairy Tales

I would love to delve into the whole dream magic a lot more. If you know of any resources exploring the connection with dreams please do share them with me :)

Friday, 18 March 2011

Telling Stories

I had forgotten how much fun it is to tell stories, to read them aloud, creating voices. Of course I am an avid reader, always surrounded by stories of one kind or another, yet it is the power of the words being released into the air, be it to share them with children or to just to share with myself, that creates the sparkling kind of magic.
As I mentioned in my last post, I am currently reading the glorious Women Who Run with Wolves. Yesterday it was the turn of the story of Vasilisa the Wise, who embarks on the intense journey of claiming her intuitive powers aided by listening to the intuition present in a tiny doll passed on by the previous female generation. 

I could write a whole new post on the lessons that this story contained, and perhaps I will next time. I don’t know what possessed me but I decided to read the story out loud to myself, and it was as if the connection with the tale grew and grew. It became personal. Maybe it took me back to those treasured childhood times when my grandmother would spend hours telling me stories of her past or reading the most beautiful books out loud to me whilst I fell asleep. That need to hear stories has stayed with me ever since. Something is released when I read stories out loud myself - and it has to be a myth, or an age old story, or even a fairy tale ( of the not too sugary kind),  for then the best magic happens as well as such deep lessons appearing in the air. Pinkola Estes, the author of the book, speaks of story connecting you to that  wild woman essence present in us, surrounding us. This I understand with all my being. 
Such stories have been weaving themselves into my life recently.  Do take a look at the sacred feminine stories of Creating Wings, I am so excited by her project. Jen Lee’s Fortunes is another collection that must be read aloud for the beauty and the soul of the words to wash over you with depth and nourishment and thought. It is the kind of collection that wraps itself around your heart (thank you Lis of Dandelion Seeds and Dreams for such an amazing gift). The life lesson stories  of Patti Digh's  Life is a Verb are also full to the brim of inspiration. Her life stories just have to be read out loud, each paragraph full of words so alive, showing that our stories can carry much light even when life is bleak.  I believe that as well as vital lessons to be learned there is magic and connection and hope in telling our stories.
At school I am currently teaching a narrative project, working with a group of year 2 children, who struggle to tell their own stories, to order their thoughts and to write their own tales. Through a series of physical footprint shapes with prompts written upon them to stand on, these children are learning to talk, to sequence and explore their ideas. By looking at age old stories, retelling those stories themselves, listening to me telling them, their imagination is on fire. That is the power of story, it makes us alive.

I wrote a poem a while ago with the line:
“I am a collector of stories.”
Now I want to be a storyteller too.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Sweeping away the cobwebs

I’ve had a couple of weeks where the stress monsters have been circling, threatening to take charge and make me feel totally rubbish about myself.  You know the kind of thing, comparing my work skills, my social skills, my artwork, my home life, all to others much greater than I, wondering how on earth they manage so well and with such sparkle. That then leads onto ‘Is anything I do actually good enough?’, which is  snugly followed by ‘Is it worth trying in the first place?’. Whilst I accept that life is one grand old rollercoaster I came to the point at the weekend when I felt enough was enough. Time to stop the unnecessary worrying and stressing, to stop allowing my mind being taken over day and night. Also no more overanalysing until the cows come home ( I am extremely good at that one). Instead of this:  time to mindfully go with the flow and trust that what will be will be. The crunch which made me realise how bad I was feeling was  that even my creativity was becoming another path I didn’t feel I was fulfilling, I mean what is that about? Surely making my art is where the value lies, engaging with my creative soul for the sheer love of it. Not because I have committed myself to a multitude daunting projects; some begun, some waiting impatiently on my desk, some neglected for some time and that feeling that I should be completing them all perfectly piece after piece, all in a neat order and according to a controlled schedule. And so I gave myself a stern talking to along the lines of:
Dear Milena,
It is exciting that there is so much to explore. You are so lucky to  be on such an amazing creative adventure. You fought so hard to reclaim that creative goddess inside, don’t you dare silence her again. DO what you love and LOVE what you do. Simply be happy.
Love Me.

I also needed to grab a bit of that thing they call perspective, because actually my needs are a walk in the park compared with the destruction and sadness that are raging the globe currently. I have been humbled in many ways this week: by a friend whose family is facing the nightmares in Libya, by the horrendous tsunami in Japan causing such devastation beyond what my mind could possibly comprehend, and by a programme by the BBC for the powerful Comic Relief Appeal documenting the absolute poverty and awe inspiring resilience of the people living in a Kiberan slum in Africa. I will certainly be donating. Time to see the bigger picture, to be a little more thankful for the goodness in my own life and to think of ways I can offer support to others in these awful times of need.
And you know what, it is hard work actively going against the natural grain of worry, and I have been chanting my ‘go with the flow’ mantra over and over again. It is working though, I am seeing the signs like a faint rainbow beckoning. For example, having just begun reading the definitive ‘Women Who Run With Wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes I came across this passage, which describes so passionately the solid foundations I wish for women everywhere and reminding me  of my chosen word  for 2011, Connection:

“ establish territory, to find one’s pack, to be in one’s body with certainty and pride regardless of the body’s gifts and limitations, to speak and act on one’s behalf, to be aware, alert, to draw on the innate feminine powers of intuition and sensing, to come into one’s cycles, to find what one belongs to, to rise with dignity, to retain as much consciousness as possible.”

Friday, 4 March 2011

Tingling Fingers

Spring is establishing itself in her delicate  details, and I am amazed yet again how nature manages to come through harsh winter time and time again, so beautifully, with such vigour and hope. I love the way my attention is drawn to the smallest bud, the slightest hint of colour holding a wealth of promise. With all my senses I realise that I too am waking up again, stretching, breathing more deeply ( she types smiling). 

With sheer glee I opened my gardening magazine this morning and lost myself in the magic. Making wish lists, creating dream designs; a really happy moment to treasure.

My fingers are itching to get started, ready to take such pleasure in the preparation of my garden after its long winter sleep. To be honest I cannot believe exactly how much meaning that little piece of land holds for me, it is  fundamental nourishment for my body and soul, it is  sanctuary, and I am immensely grateful to the great Goddess out there for making this heart of mine sing.