Author Archives: modestly

About modestly

Reflective, and domestic, a wannabe poet and philosopher drowning in the complexities of life. More Marge Simpson than Elizabeth Barret, but what the hell.Tripping through life with the aid of dead writers, and some live ones, minor medication, and a wonderful, loving, maddening set of teenage boys, and a husband I adore. Update - the boys are no longer teenagers and I still adore the man. https://platform.linkedin.com/badges/js/profile.js

Life Matters

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From W.B.Yeats poem

…. and it is the start of a new year for all of us.  I am listening closely to the world via the radio – my trusty Radio 4 gives me the impression I am part of it all.  Life is struggle – there’s no way around it for any of us, but the struggle can be fun, uplifting, treacherous – all a mess. That is what I bring today, a big mess of confused memory, thoughts, stretches of imagination – every day I have to pull myself dragging and screaming into the world and try and imagine something new and beautiful to make it worthwhile.  For some people it may seem a hop and a skip to get on with the day – what a blessing that would be! But I had dealt me a melancholic disposition, so it starts with me talking quite  sternly with myself to arise. Once that’s done, everything seems to fall into place –  breakfast, dog walk, and back to the p.c for some illustrative work.

I like having the voices over the radio lull me into the sense of belonging to a tribe – this morning the voices were singing my song about how its ok to have a disposition like Eeyore.  It’s easy in today’s madcap world of social media to imagine your life is a little one, in comparison to the amazing lives everyone else is leading – but I told myself decades ago that an Ordinary Life is a Good Life. And beats the alternative.  I suffered severe anxiety in my twenties and it propelled me into making some very healthy decisions – quit a corporate job, raised children (sans childcare!) and chose alot of frugal living choices to support me not working at a full time job. Its not for everyone, but I love that there is a new awareness growing exponentially that we do not need to consume all the time – that we can mend and repurpose stuff, and that self worth is separate from the external measures of success that we were sold.

So now I shall quit rambling and move into doing some of my stuff for the day – I hope you are living safe, secure and loving lives out there.

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Merry Christmas

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Season’s greetings from Nottingham, England  – it’s been a full year here – as we navigate our way into my husband’s retirement, and see the youngest son start his foray into teaching we have had the inevitable roller coaster of highs and lows.  Into the mix goes my decision to try and manage my health conditions without the support of prescriotion medicine – don’t ask me why but after decades of regulating my body with the addition of anti depressants for pain management, I really wanted to discover life without them- more rollercoaster fun!

 

Wishing everyone peace and goodwill – remember that bit and the holidays will bring its own rewards.

 

 

‘Was I a man or a jerk?’

 

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Saul Bellow’s own words on his impending death…and who to judge? But the man was a tour de force in his own lifetime and this is a portion of his speech when he received the Nobel prize for Literature.  He says it best.

 

‘What is at the center now? At the moment, neither art nor science but mankind determining, in confusion and obscurity, whether it will endure or go under. The whole species – everybody – has gotten into the act. At such a time it is essential to lighten ourselves, to dump encumbrances, including the encumbrances of education and all organized platitudes, to make judgments of our own, to perform acts of our own. Conrad was right to appeal to that part of our being which is a gift. We must hunt for that under the wreckage of many systems. The failure of those systems may bring a blessed and necessary release from formulations, from an over-defined and misleading consciousness. With increasing frequency I dismiss as merely respectable opinions I have long held – or thought I held – and try to discern what I have really lived by, and what others live by. As for Hegel’s art freed from “seriousness” and glowing on the margins, raising the soul above painful involvement in the limitations of reality through the serenity of form, that can exist nowhere now, during this struggle for survival. However, it is not as though the people who engaged in this struggle had only a rudimentary humanity, without culture, and knew nothing of art. Our very vices, our mutilations, show how rich we are in thought and culture. How much we know. How much we even feel. The struggle that convulses us makes us want to simplify, to reconsider, to eliminate the tragic weakness which prevented writers – and readers – from being at once simple and true.

Writers are greatly respected. The intelligent public is wonderfully patient with them, continues to read them and endures disappointment after disappointment, waiting to hear from art what it does not hear from theology, philosophy, social theory, and what it cannot hear from pure science. Out of the struggle at the center has come an immense, painful longing for a broader, more flexible, fuller, more coherent, more comprehensive account of what we human beings are, who we are, and what this life is for. At the center humankind struggles with collective powers for its freedom, the individual struggles with dehumanization for the possession of his soul. If writers do not come again into the center it will not be because the center is pre-empted. It is not. They are free to enter. If they so wish….

The essence of our real condition, the complexity, the confusion, the pain of it is shown to us in glimpses, in what Proust and Tolstoy thought of as “true impressions”. This essence reveals, and then conceals itself. When it goes away it leaves us again in doubt. But we never seem to lose our connection with the depths from which these glimpses come. The sense of our real powers, powers we seem to derive from the universe itself, also comes and goes. We are reluctant to talk about this because there is nothing we can prove, because our language is inadequate and because few people are willing to risk talking about it. They would have to say, “There is a spirit” and that is taboo. So almost everyone keeps quiet about it, although almost everyone is aware of it.

 for every human being there is a diversity of existences, that the single existence is itself an illusion in part, that these many existences signify something, tend to something, fulfill something; it promises us meaning, harmony and even justice. What Conrad said was true, art attempts to find in the universe, in matter as well as in the facts of life, what is fundamental, enduring, essential.”’

 

Saul Bellow acceptance speech

 

 

A reintroduction to Modestly

 

22I thought I would share some thoughts I articulated when asked a couple of years ago to contribute to an art blog – just in case you haven’t yet met me or know what I do! It seems like yesterday that I sold my first hand made book on Etsy – and every sale is just as exciting to me as that first one. It is an opportunity to put a little bit of myself into the world, albeit in a very humble sense. I hope you feel curious enough to browse my links at the end and discover the work I produce!

The quest of living our lives well is the inevitable journey each individual must take. It is the perpetual drive to retain the mystery and magic in a world that is sometimes inhumane, hostile. Sometimes life becomes almost unbearable in the moment. I have struggled to maintain my equilibrium in different phases of mine – my early twenties working in a pressurised commercial environment, my early thirties becoming a parent, my early forties learning to live with the loss of a marriage and forging a new future.
Since I was a child I have had a curiosity about how to live well. To me this is the question that philosophy tries to answer. And philosophers are interesting, but so are poets and gurus, and business leaders. Curiosity is the spring board to doing something, whatever it may be, it is about the opportunity to dig deeper, to investigate. The process of making my books chose me really. I have loved mining the minds of past thinkers – and current ones too – I think in an attempt to understand more about how to be human. That seems strange, since being human should surely be the most natural of processes. I don’t find that, I find it discombobulating, I look at behaviour to learn from it. I know now I am not alone in that feeling of alienation from my own species, and writers and artists taught me that. I learnt from my early life that being a career girl disassociated me from what is most important to me. So I stopped.

One of my greatest pleasures in life is creating. To find yourself living that flow of easy ‘being’ when the mind and the body are occupied has to be the up there with the best things. I don’t care who you are, or what you have – this is the experience that tops status, recognition, fan appeal. It is really playing – and we in the Western hemisphere have somehow forgotten that play is how we began, and how children learn best. Learn to play, and you learn how to live well. Creating anything, from a cupcake to a spreadsheet, from a poem to an engine, is about that engagement of you with something else. And alchemy happens.

Since I started at Etsy, I have diversified into card design and that spurred me onto a new product range of published notebooks , which are beautifully manufactured and offer another way of enjoying my design work complemented with the wisdom of writers and artists that have inspired me .

The design work on cards suggested to me that I could diversify into other product ranges, and print on demand sites now offer my work on a multi platform , all of which can be found via my website, or here All my sites   

Hoping to share more with you!

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Autumn shots

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The cygnets on Attenborough nature reserve are growing up now – I saw them first when they were teeny – lovely to keep up with them.

The tree is my brothers favourite on one of my dog walks – and therefore deserves some attention – I took a photo and then altered it digitally.

The berries speak for themselves.

 

…and a poem to share – not mine!

The Present

For the present there is just one moon,

though every level pond gives back another.

But the bright disc shining in the black lagoon,

perceived by astrophysicist and lover,

is milliseconds old. And even that light’s

seven minutes older than its source.

And the stars we think we see on moonless nights

are long extinguished. And, of course,

this very moment, as you read this line,

is literally gone before you know it.

Forget the here-and-now. We have no time

but this device of wantonness and wit.

Make me this present then: your hand in mine,

and we’ll live out our lives in it.

-Michael Donaghy

Keeping busy

It’s been mad hot here – and I mean mad – I don’t ‘do’heat – I am a coolio character who is sent into a tailspin when knocked off a very narrow spectrum of temperature tolerance.  I have a sneaky irritating condition which is exacerbated by fluctuations in weather, so I am trying desperately to stay cool.  My newest companion is a nine year old rescue dog – Reggie, who is frustrated too by the rising temperatures because it interferes with his walking schedule. Getting Reggie is the best thing I have achieved in a long time – less a rescue by us than a rescue of me by him.  I missed walking a dog since having lost Digger, missed the casual engagement with the local dog walkers, the daily interaction that brought the outside in. But we are back – and Reggie is settling in grand, a little heartbeat at my feet.

 

My other achievements in the past few months have been to include three new product ranges into my Etsy shop – to keep up interest!  I was considering how to use my card illustration to create another income stream, and have designed three different sized notebooks which incorporate my card design and inspiring quotation. I have taken life lessons from writers, musicians and philosophers for decades, and so share some of my favourites.  A further project is now available on Amazon too – a heftier volume featuring a selection of my card designs as a book to share on the coffee table – no note pages in this one! All the books are also available via the site at Blurb, but I have a few copies at Etsy which I can send out signed.  A further project in the pipeline should be with me soon –  a smaller production featuring design and quotation- more to follow!

Notebook

Fully illustrated notebook Modestly bites

Link to purchase ‘Modestly bites’ on Etsy    etsy.me/2NeDTnb

Three notebooks

Fully illustrated notebooks with full page illustration inside

mod bites1abcdef

mod bites1abcde

mod bites1

…Oh and before I forget I was delighted that one my designs is now up and running at the Urban Outfitters splendid site—-sweet!

Circle of Life

Circle of Life by anipani

 

Link to Urban page   bit.ly/2NbhKpU

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Reggie

Brief encounter

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It isn’t rare to have an encounter with deer here in the Highlands of Scotland – and in our village at Kinlochleven they frequently come down to the river, or sojourn on the green for a short while. I have been taking out my new rescue Patterdale morning , noon and night – we are more often out than in, and yesterday evening we met a beautiful young stag . He had arrived on the green just as we did, bounded onto the bridge and leapt over following the line of the river.  We caught up with him – the light was still hanging around although it was past ten at night – the village was quiet. Reggie and I stood rapt as the young stag was totally still in our presence. It was as though he had invited us into his space. And then he bowed his head to eat some grass – I bowed mine back – and we mimicked one anothers gestures twice more. Reggie was as quiet as a mouse – no barking, no growling, no pulling – just a three way dialogue of enjoying the meeting. Extraodinary. And uplifting – my spirits are needing more of this.

The place I want to get back to

is where

in the pinewoods

in the moments between

the darkness

and first light

two deer

came walking down the hill

and when they saw me

they said to each other, okay,

this one is okay,

let’s see who she is

and why she is sitting

on the ground like that,

so quiet, as if

asleep, or in a dream,

but, anyway, harmless;

and so they came

on their slender legs

and gazed upon me

not unlike the way

I go out to the dunes and look

and look and look

into the faces of the flowers;

and then one of them leaned forward

and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life

bring to me that could exceed

that brief moment?

For twenty years

I have gone every day to the same woods,

not waiting, exactly, just lingering.

Such gifts, bestowed,

can’t be repeated.

If you want to talk about this

come to visit. I live in the house

near the corner, which I have named

Gratitude.

(c) Mary Oliver