Category Archives: wellbeing

Simply Human

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On National Women’s day I want to say something. It’s not radical, it’s not clever, it’s not even controversial – at least from where I am. And that is the point. I am writing from a position of privilege , I have been educated to the same standard as my brothers, I have worked in a male dominated industry and been accepted as successful within my career, and I have a marriage which is traditional in values but recognises my strengths ( and my weaknesses).

I want to say thank you – to all the women and the men who went before me and worked quietly in the background to remove barriers in the system.  It’s not perfect, and I myself worked hard two decades ago to change attitudes within the company I worked. But the change has been remarkable in my lifetime.

The challenge for our society – U.K – is different now. It is to accept the equality between genders and to understand that equality retains the opportunity for difference. It is to accept responsibilities and duties that are incumbent on everyone to work hard, and to embrace challenge together, both in the workplace, in the community and in the domestic arena.

I would like to see less commodification of sexuality, which starts at birth now – the baby vests that promote the princess in the female , the five year old pageants, the sexting of teens.  Do grown ups that have sex really need to display this sense of rampant horniness in the everyday and in the inappropriate age groups of the tender young.

I don’t know what a day can do to promote the values of women – I don’t even know what they are. My values are different to my friends, let alone those who think I am ridiculous. I just want a world where we can be confident enough to have a dialogue with one another beyond gender, race, abilities. It’s a bit of dream but we have arrived at a place undreamt of by my female ancestors.

My illustration for a challenge at Redbubble provoked me to produce the illustration above – it has man and woman side by side, potent with possibility.( and available here  redbubble and  at  Society6

 

On a final note I defer to the poet laureate Wislawa  Szymborska, succinct and brilliant .
It’s a political age.

All day long, all through the night,
all affairs–yours, ours, theirs–
are political affairs.

Whether you like it or not,
your genes have a political past,
your skin, a political cast,
your eyes, a political slant.

Whatever you say reverberates,
whatever you don’t say speaks for itself.
So either way you’re talking politics.

Even when you take to the woods,
you’re taking political steps
on political grounds.

Apolitical poems are also political,
and above us shines a moon
no longer purely lunar.
To be or not to be, that is the question.
And though it troubles the digestion
it’s a question, as always, of politics.

To acquire a political meaning
you don’t even have to be human.
Raw material will do,
or protein feed, or crude oil,

or a conference table whose shape
was quarreled over for months;
Should we arbitrate life and death
at a round table or a square one?

Meanwhile, people perished,
animals died,
houses burned,
and the fields ran wild
just as in times immemorial
and less political.

Moments in time

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There we were – back in the Highlands of Scotland, the weather playing its part and cooperating with us, and it’s a trip worth sharing.

I stress fairly easily – my children will vouch for that – so I have had to find coping strategies over the years to help be from having a meltdown.  This is one of my best – to focus on something very ordinary, get right in and personal, look at it carefully, consider its history, its place in  the world. Photograph it. Suddenly you’ve opened up a whole door of perception – the perspective has changed, and the world has tilted just a little in your favour.

Sometimes its elusive – I can’t find the right key to unlock that stratagem, but it’s still a great player in my box of tricks. I suppose the modern parlance would be to call this ‘mindfulness’. I don’t mind that. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, call it whatever, I will keep it close.

I have made these images less than the resolution needed for printing so they don’t get copied and used by some nefarious villain willing to steal them,  but if you are really wanting to have them decorate your walls , then shimmy on down to Society 6 , link here Society6 page and you can navigate to various formats from there.

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Who dreams in Latin?

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Me apparently.  Now I understand there is going to be a minority of educated peeps who regularly visit their night time muse and discourse via that ancient language.  Because they can.  I am not of them.  I detested taking Latin in school and confounded attempts to make me regular or irregular with verbage, refused to consort with Hannibal and Hasdrubal despite the allure of elephants, and exited the class only with the ability to ‘tu, te, tui, tibi, te’ to  rhythm courtesy of my doctors eccentric wife who brought a whole new dimension of dance into the conjugation theme. Saying that I do know that ‘Julia puella parva est’ tells me what anyone with eyes could determine – Julia is a small girl. Latin as a discipline was forced onto my curriculum by my mother, who had been denied the opportunity and believed it to be necessary in any right thinking girls armoury, which may have been the case in Montaigne’s time, whose father denied his son the use of any other language as he grew up. But times change. Move on – the thrust of my enquiry is why would I be dreaming Latin phrases?  I awoke recently with the clear message of ‘Nosce te ipsum’ plastered all over my consciousness in the style of a Banksy’s graffiti.  I knew I knew what it meant, but couldn’t recall – I had to resort to the husband, who resorted to the Google machine.  Of course – Nosce te ipsum is ‘Know Thyself’  – now the nub of the real enquiry is why is my subconscious sending me this command?  Is it thrust at me dagger like, suggesting I lack self awareness and something very dark and looming is about to reveal itself in my personality?  Or is it somewhat self congratulatory , extolling the virtues of introspection and reflection which anyone who knows me will confirm I expound.  I like neither scenario – self congratulation is about as welcome as self flagellation in my eyes, with less soreness. And I have lived a whole life like Henny Penny who clucked around her friends asking whether the sky was falling .

Despite the anxiety around whether my subconscious is alerting me to something I ought to know, I welcome this intrusion .  ‘Know thyself’ seems a good mantra to me.  Look at your virtues and examine your faults – try every moment you can to be the best version of yourself – this is what I take from the message.  I fail, I pick myself up and I fail again, but in the attempt to understand my errors, my poor decisions, I end up making better ones. Everyone’s a winner. I have never regretted saying sorry. Sometimes I have not said it, or not soon enough and I have regretted that. I suppose saying sorry makes you vulnerable, shows a side that is less than perfect.  I like that. I like that when I create something and something goes wrong, I always end up with creating something better in it’s stead. Always.  And when someone says sorry to me, I tend to cut them some slack. That’s the way it works.

Nosce te ipsum.

St Augustine quotation Anne Corr

Yuhana no sakayuru toki ni

..But just at the time of flourishing blossoms.

 

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From  The Tales of Ise – Ise monogatari  – anthology of Japanese poems from the Heian period 794  – 1185

Illustration my own, based on  Japanese illustration by Utagawa Hiroshige born 1797

 

Taking my own advice

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Further to my post about Shinrin-yoku, I decided to unyoke myself from my p.c. and treat myself and Digger to a well deserved break in the day. The sun was high, the sky was blue and the wind was refreshingly gentle as a breeze.  Digger is an old dog, so that breeze is a pre-requisite to a walk in the summer.  I keep valuing his presence more and more as his age becomes more and more apparent to me. I treasure my time with him – such is love!  I was considering this and more as I reflected on my life and times.  I have had a complicated relationship with love – I crave it’s presence and sumultaneously feel I somehow have an inadequacy deep within me to fully appreciate it.  I am so glad to have my family around me- but their presence is peripheral – I like to know they are there, but am happy they are living their lives their way. I have been this way forever – to the chagrin of my mother who would demand far more time from me were I to be complicit. Paradoxically I learnt my self sufficency from her – as youngsters my parents encouraged independence , valuing it above any expression of warmth and love. My parenting has been totally informed by my perceived lack of early sustenance- as young children mine could be under no illusion that the singular aim of life is to love! Both of them now would probably complain I wasn’t authoritive enough – oh the sad absurdities of parenting!

Enough – my aim of this post was to share my experience of a simple walk . The glory to be found in the ordinary is daily worth revisiting. I was considering this after hearing a radio 4 programme promoting an upcoming project ‘Accounting for taste ‘wherein the producer/presenter Matthew Sweet  is wanting us, the great unwashed, to share what we consider to be unique in our homes – the thing that makes home ours and ours alone. I like listening to this sort of thing – connecting to ordinary lives , and I thought about my own environs. I live in a very ordinary semi- detached home in a very pleasant suburb of a Midlands town in U.K.  My house is not extraordinary in any way whatsoever, and yet if you walked into it, you would feel us. We are all there , family moments imbibe each room, mementoes collected, stones given to one another as gifts of love, paintings by the children on fridge a decade after having been produced, percussion instruments littered around, bongo drums to pick up and mess with, artworks collected over decades , photographs by my brilliant photographer husband and books. Lots of books. My own tributes to my dogs, dead and alive  are in the form of knitted statues – definitely unique! You get my meaning – our lives are full of meaningful and lovely memory that makes us unique, but none of them have any value really to anyone outside of the family, and that is fine. I am o.k with that. I love our ordinary. I celebrate it. One of the character traits of my youngest son that makes me most comfortable is that he gets this already – in a world increasingly desiring us all to be part of something ‘special’. Life is special. Life is enough. For decades I sought meaning beyond that , and yesterday felt healing. I understood that everything is of and from the same happening. Some things started their lives at different times on that happening timeline. I was telling Digger this so that he knows too. Bless. The pictures show where I was, two minutes walk away from the front door, a public footpath takes you away from the cares of the everyday world. Nice.

 

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If you want to link up with Matthew Sweet for his upcoming programme at Radio4 you can link up by using the link Accountingfortaste 

 

 

Shinrin-yoku

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I was entranced to discover there is a word for the feeling of well being I share with millions of you – Shinrin-yoku, a Japanese term that means “forest bathing”. The idea being that spending time in the forest and natural areas is good preventative medicine, lowering stress. Allelochemic substances ‘phytonicides’help slow the growth of fungi and bacteria. When humans are exposed to them, these chemicals are scientifically proven to lower blood pressure, relieve stress and boost the growth of white blood cells.  garlic, onion, pine, tea tree and oak are all examples of plants emitting phytonicides.

When we walk in Scotland, we spend most of our time simply being in the landscape, enjoying the feeling of well-being that we both find there. I take lots of photographs there and these inform much of what I do when I am creating both illustration and the handmade books. I go back to those photographs time and again, both to recreate the feeling of creativity, and to inspire new designs.  Just browsing through my back catalogue  provokes a feeling of joy, remembered tranquillity and when I am in a slump of not knowing how to move forward, I take a step back and invariably come across something to make the spark reignite.

Today I rediscovered these woods, and immediately I am reminded of the wonderful treatise by Herman Hesse on the sanctuary of trees. I breathed a sigh of recognition when I first read his words – they are beautiful – I can only urge you to find a copy.

You can find the essay online here ; Herman Hesse Wandering

In the meantime, don’t forget to get some time in to shinrin-yoku

 

‘Only connect -live in fragments no longer

‘Only connect! … Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.’  E.M.Forster

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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.

This weekend I dedicated my time and my attention to two orders I had received both of which were important to the customers and were wanted quickly – one for a wedding and one for a birthday. I normally give myself a little more time but I decided to shelve all my other commitments and concentrate my efforts. ( Saying that, there is a minimum of effort I have to put in domestically to keep the wheels on !)

As a result I have made myself a new product line for my handmade goods within the Etsy environs. And I am chuffed!! It is a robust book slip cover which fits my handmade books so they can be kept safe and lovely.  I shall be experimenting some more with different finishes and papers, and hopefully list them as an add-on item to the books.

This one I have paired with the journal I made which includes blank sketching/writing pages as well as quotation and illustration. You can see the journal here  http://etsy.me/29M0msh.

Every time I send something out into the world because a customer has ordered it, I get a frisson of excitement. Will they love it?  Often I am lucky enough to get amazing comments and always feel incredibly grateful that someone has bothered to do that. I create in a very humble and small way – but it means something somewhere to someone that their order has been completed with attention and love. And it has.

Recently I sent an order that was followed up with a response that astonished me. This is the message she sent to me

‘Anne, I have just opened your parcel. I saved it until I was quite alone. I looked at carols book first and it was so beautiful it made me cry. It was so exquisitely done, with the breathtaking poetry and lovely tiny drawings of animals. You truly have a wonderful gift. Thank you so much. Then I opened the Elizabeth 1st one, which is also very lovely. THEN I carefully opened the prb one and my goodness, I was absolutely entranced. I know he will be truly amazed. It is really breathtaking. How am I ever going to be able to part with any of them? Thank you so much.
Sue’

Isn’t it wonderful that we can connect through making?