Have you already lost that New Year glow? That warm fuzzy feeling that this year things will go OK, things will be accomplished. You will be calm, intelligent and accomplished?
I reached a proper low around the middle of January. The bottom out involved words like: stomach bug, medical fasting, colonoscopy*, husband projectile vomiting, two small children, no family nearby, vandalism to the car, nobody going to bed on time, spilt milk, tears over spilt milk. So that was last Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Our climbing Finn and the spilt milk, January 2017
|Our climbing Finn and the spilt milk, January 2017
Thankfully, this week there has been some soul food to replenish my very empty tank.
A child free catch up. My friend B is from New Zealand and we have only known each other as ‘mums in Scotland.’ Most of the time we have snatched conversations amidst the chaos of small children. This week we managed a late afternoon glass of wine and a chat without the babies. Just sitting down to an uninterrupted chat with another mum is a special occasion. But B has been been on a soul food gathering project of her own. She has been asking each of her good friends to come up with two adjectives which describe her- and giving out two in return. For me she had ‘non-judgemental’ and ‘worldly’. I am still working on my return words.
Kid time: We were watching some vintage Wiggles and Rafa was dancing, but became concerned that he was ‘not very good.’ We reassured him that he was good, and also that perhaps if he practised more he would get even better. A moment later Rafa asked Jon and I to leave the room so that he could ‘practice’.
We dutifully let the room and had a brief chat (and a chuckle) in the kitchen, before being called back in to join Rafa (with his new and improved dance moves) in a wags the dog dance party.
For the first time in years I went to a writing workshop.
It was an Ekphrastic (using visual art as a prompt) group led by Helen Boden
. We spent the morning at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery
with Helen taking us through the landscape photography exhibition – The View From Here
. Two hours with no phone and no children were soul food in themselves, but I took real energy and joy from the guided viewing, stretching my writer muscles and listening to others read their work (especially those who wrote and read in Scots). I admit it was also a bit of a buzz having people chuckle at the occasional line of my own. Here are some of my scribbles:
On viewing Mer de Glace –
Francis Bedford French Alps, 1860, and ‘View from Baluchiston’ Fred Bremnr India, 1899.
Humans in Landscapes
The leisure Class.
What monster is there that needs out-run up a mountain?
Icy passage, Oh the air up there is fine.
But I wonder who is at home cooking the dinner?
The hot rock under bare feet .
Man stands in a landscape and he thinks himself large.
Stands tall. Knows of the photographers click,
but does he think about what comes after?
Watches on, listens while friends tell a tale,
a romance perhaps,
Or a stubbed toe and lingering pain.
The small details they carry in their pockets are not captured here.
Just their deeds. Just a moment gathering water.
Geological landscape and man.
Does it make a poem? Hmm.
Inspired by the title: ‘Late Afternoon – Remembering Lost Holidays’
Photograph by Thomas Joshua Cooper and other Highlands landscapes.
These Scottish landscapes, especially the bald hills- Denuded long past set my teeth on edge today. Yes there is adventure there and beauty and majesty. But Oh please just give me a tree! No actually give me a forest and a stream and a child naked squatting to examine a stone rubbed smooth by river water. With bare feet tough from a summers wandering.
Late December at the Green Lochen my son asked to take off his boots. He paddled a moment and then asked to have his boots put back on. The long dark days just now. I’m over them.
‘Is it morning?’ He asks everyday.
And there I was back writing about the children, and daydreaming about the contrast between Scotland, where I find myself today, bringing up small children, and Australia of my youth. I also loved the contrast between my piece, and other readings based on the same images. You can read some of the other work inspired by the morning here – Sam Dounis.
|‘Can I take my boots off.’ Paddling in Scotland in December 2016
Over a bowl of soup after the workshop one of the women commented that she finds her other writing flows better afterwards. I like the notion that what you produce is not necessarily the goal. It is free-ing because you are not setting yourself up to fail – or to worry if you don’t ‘produce’ something. When I go back (which I hope to next month) I will try to remind myself of that.
Still even having occasionally sunk into that mum habit of fretting over the need to make the most of every valuable second, I came away from the workshop with a bounce in my step.
Some other soul food moments this week have been starting ‘The Buried Giant, the Kazuo Ishiguro book I bought in December, Skyping with my brother, getting new twitter followers, going to the gym with my husband and having a family swim.
So here’s hoping New Year Fuzzy Feelings- the reboot- lasts longer than the original… or perhaps I just need to factor in soul food all year round?
*edited 25/1/2017 – talking with a friend last night I realised I should explain, I have a first degree relative who died from bowel cancer (my father) as such the advice is to have a colonoscopy every five years – happy to say I am symptom free. If you have any concerns about your health don’t be shy to seek medical advice.