Waves

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It comes in waves.

Name anything you like about life, it always comes in its waves.

Confidence, doubt, pain, joy, contentment, solitude, fear, strength, serenity – everything moves in a rhythm of ebbs and flows, surges and retreats, one interspersed with its opposites.

Waves, they keep on coming.

As an art student in Brighton, the flow of work and expectation on us was huge, and at the end of one particular day I was struggling to keep it together. I walked my 21 year old self down to the seafront and sat on the pebbles to breathe, watching the fresh waves coming, and coming, washing the shingle in, and out, a woosh, and rush, woosh, and rush. Something spoke to me then about the rhythms of life being wave-like. “Keep going,” they said. “Keep in time with us, we’re not ever going to stop.”

After all that graft, many of my friends and I either found great jobs in London or places at the Royal College, either option to be learning amongst legends. Surrounded by all that ambition and achievement, would we sink, or swim? I was completely terrified, struggling to discern my own confused and choppy voice in the big, blousy ambition of world-class, Soho film industry directors and producers, and at times sank like a stone.

I wish I could go back to that younger version of me, help myself with more kindness through the waters and simply say, “Hang on to the truth about waves.”

I would tell stories about being out in a gathering storm on my surfboard, figuring it was time to paddle in when the lifeboat was launched by a gun into a rioting ocean under ugly grey clouds. I would tell of the time my leash got wrapped around a fishing buoy, anchoring me to the seabed as huge breakers ripped over my small body stuck just under the surface. I might describe a time once paddling out from shore to turn around and see only fog, no land, and not another person in sight. I am not and never was an amazing surfer, but I would also tell about the many, many waves I did ride because through all of this and even when it felt utterly, utterly frightening, I learnt how to feel the rhythms, to love them, and ride with them.

The graceful, peeling arc of a wave makes life delightfully, hypnotically compelling. At times overwhelming, yet also there to explain that most moving of sensations when you’re in a trough of fear or distress, the clench of strength to paddle in and ride the next glistening peak that keeps coming with its joy as it ever promised to do.

Those big, beautiful, frothy, cresting waves – look at them coming this summer, and remember whatever happens, all of life always comes in waves.

 

{Today’s Soundtrack: Dead Light – Trills}

Winter Jewels

winter-jewels

How are you doing through this end of a particularly strange winter? It’s felt like a long haul hasn’t it? Considering meditations and moments pressing in for warmth and rest as the new year turned these recent months, I want to pay tribute to this outgoing season for the creativity still brewing even when we didn’t realise it.

This image stayed with me all winter long, taken on a November morning at Fforest while retreating alone, coming at sunrise from another angle down in the roots one day.

Crouched and hunkered down through hibernation times, it would be natural to write these coldest and darkest weeks of the year off altogether for gaining any sense of achievement and progression.

For all its weirdness and cold though, the last little while has given us beautiful frosts, and sunrises to set the earth shimmering at dawn.

Ideas secretly growing while we stayed low and simple.

Here’s what winter can be…

…crouching so low that wet grasses tickle our noses, sun seems to stream though from another angle unexpected and turning cold earth into a tray of jewels, glinting to our eyes, easing in a smile and while that sun hits little apple cheeks, made blush and round with quiet joy, a bird might pipe up in its beak language and say something along the lines of, “Don’t worry. You’re doing better than you think you are…”

Here’s what I think. We have—unwittingly—done better than we think and almost made it to warmer days again, and when good and ready after rest, energy will flow more freely on our ideas and making and doing once more, not just preserved for staying warm now. Some brilliant, bright green shoots are on their way – just look about and see! *

Jewels have been forming all the way through winter, when I neither had energy or daylight hours to do anything with them except gaze on and be glad – to be inspired.

Thanks for your jewels, Winter. Here’s to a gleaming Spring.

 

*  This is a particularly brilliant project to be launching with the Spring – Makers4Refugees founded by Pip Wilcox. Keep an eye, there are some fabulous people making stuff in order to support refugees with your help.

 

{Today’s Soundtrack: Kaki King – Skimming the Fractured Surface to a Place of Endless Light}

Thank you, NYC

 

How do you find New York?

In July, I made my first visit to the big apple, and made every effort to experience it on my own terms even (especially) in hitting some of the iconic sights. In making pictures, it’s a great challenge to capture everything we know a place is, yet bring yourself to the picture too! I really wanted to explain what it was like taking part in the NY thing, as well as being true to my personal reality which is about space, and peace, and breathing in and out.

The thing with NY is, we all know what it looks like as the backdrop to so much of our movie culture. There is a huge temptation to make something look like another picture I’ve seen, but I struggle with the point of doing that because what really needs to happen is we work on explaining experiences in our own voices. That’s how we get past the homogenous, corporate exterior of what we’re fed, and remain connected as human beings.

It was a massive challenge making a mini-portrait of my personal journey in NY—no more than one minute—and so much I had to leave out! I had a go though, without a plan, just to feel my way around with a camera, to see what would happen.

The place is frantic.

But amidst the street vendors clattering under hanging yellow traffic lights, and grubby subway rides downtown, I paid attention to quieter things too – to stay connected to moments and places where I could breathe and stop a while to digest that big, juicy bundle of apple-like life.

Thank you, New York, you and your Central Park roses were ridiculously, fragrantly lovely.

This was all shot on an iPhone SE and edited in After Effects. Music: ‘Raindrops’ by Grapes, under a CC License.

Finding Forward

central-park-arrow

This little brass arrow sits in the concrete somewhere in Central Park, New York.

I was taking care of my friends’ kids for a week back in July, my first trip to the city, and we were having a lot of fun deciding where to go and what to do with our times together. So much to soak in, and maybe it’s because it all just makes you want to look up that you get a big, gulping sense of opportunity and ‘skies-the-limit’ sort of inspiration, so we ran around and ate waffles and swam and went to the zoo and ended up in A&E and rode buses and bought sacks of M&Ms and took funny pictures…

It was great. And I saw that arrow, and somewhere in the middle of signposts pointing in fifty different directions, I clung onto this photograph of a solid, anchored thing that shone out from the floor and told me which way to look.

After travelling through summer with a sense of barefoot freedom, its time to carry some of the fresh feeling forward into a new season of projects and plans back home. Bumping into friends all over the place, I get a sense that for many of us, this summer has been a time for rethinking, gaining clarity and gathering courage to act on new ideas or even close off old ones. It’s exciting – loads going on if we can settle back in carefully and figure out how to do what next.

But wait! Please! Don’t make me go inside, I’m thriving out here in the world’s wide open spaces, running around, having ideas, drawing nice pictures and playing petanque on the beach!  

When it comes to ideas, time out is a pure gift, but we all know it only really means anything if we get down to some practical reality and planning, and doing. 

Direction, that’s what we need, out the back of free-spirited imagining.

But I do find this hard, don’t you? A transition from one season to the next; moving through a sort of liminal space after leaving one state of dreaming and before fully grasping the new state of doing.

Direction. Commit to a path, and keep moving forward.

So this week back home and inside again, despite inevitable fears, I’m having a go at making it happen. I’m filtering the coffee, working through my list, braving the thought that some of this might not work, and I’m giving it a go anyway. And I know the same is true for many of us. I think it helps to keep finding time and space to be quiet, distill the options and discern next steps – like gazing up through cool trees in Central Park after scampering through grubby, hot and hectic NY streets. Taking a breather, to figure out what to choose when you’re back to it?

Seeking stillness is never an excuse for inaction, so long as it’s done with a willingness to drop the distractions and be present to the day, and what it asks for. So along with thinking about that quiet little brass arrow, these are some of the words I find helpful at the moment:

Be still; find your forward.

Here we are, back in the loop, no more freestyle for a while but plenty of plans, and all the love in the world to make them happen!

 

{Today’s Soundtrack: Bob Moses – Like It Or Not}

Halfway Down a Long Path

Now roughly half way through this 100 Days project, I want to take a moment to check in with some ideas that have occurred as I’ve progressed, and the reasons for taking a break before continuing.

As mentioned at some point in recent posts, rattling through 100 Days really is a long time to be rattling, and is rattling really a good use of my precious time? What am I learning here? What is better in the world as a result? It’s a long time to keep mechanically repeating a task or approach with either no critical judgement—”I’m just doing it for its own sake, and that is good enough.”—or with no sense of direction either.

I realise I want direction. 

I realise I want the wealth of all those days to add up to something significant.

I want that wealth of thought or effort to show either in a resolved, embedded attitude of mind, and/or better skills, and a rewarding body of work too.

Agreed – sometimes its important to just play as that’s when your mind can loosen up and become free enough to let new things happen.
Somewhere in here though is a neat point about the purpose of regular discipline and the benefit in forming a new habit. By definition, a new habit will not be so polished to begin with. Being accountable to the world by sharing all this online amplifies inevitable personal vulnerabilities, and maybe these last couple of weeks I just needed to take a breath and then here’s the next thing I realise:

I realise that being publicly accountable with the things you make day after day is a little nerve-wracking and slightly exhausting, and quite difficult to do unless you have the strength of a rhino, which I don’t

This began with the question, “What could you do with 100 days of making?”
I have a new question. Now I have glimpsed what’s possible and I know the effort involved, how can I make my next 50 days really count? 
 
{Today’s Soundtrack: Shivum Sharma – Flicker}

_navigating a ‘creative process’

Day 9 & 10 of #100Days project – Carol Ann Dufy & D.H.Lawrence

Anyone setting foot on the path of creating—making, inventing, imagining, developing—is saying ‘yes’ to the so-called creative process*. Inevitably, there will be mess, confusion, both silence and noise, and probably fear too.

You are a brave and adventurous soul, agreeing to this slightly frightening mystery, so how best to hang in when the above recipe seems too sticky to stir and you just need to get something done because you’re up against budget and deadline?

I don’t think it’s complicated.

I do think it’s about courage, and faith, and accepting the mystery for a while, and just getting better at recognising what’s going on when you hit those sticky points.

Simply:

Courage
In having the initial idea, there is something happening inside telling you that this thing could work. The sub-concious knows it, and is trying to get a message through to your cognitive, rational mind.

Have courage that there is sense in your hunch, and put that first step on the road. 

Faith
You have tools at your disposal to throw at this conundrum. You have gathered those through hours—years—of practice, so have a little faith that the practical tools in your kit are there because they work. Pick them up. Have a play. (What are those tools for you, by the way?)

Have faith that your tools serve a really useful purpose, and just pick them up! 

Mystery
Making ourselves accountable to journeys in which we have no idea what the outcome will be, it is all of the above (fear, mess etc) but it is also—in and of itself—a fantastic fact of life, and the better we can become at life, well, who’s not up for that?

I’ve been really inspired by a recent interview with artist Ella Luna on The Great Discontent. “What could you do with 100 days of making?” she asks. It’s a project she’s running for MoMA, inviting anyone to pick up a habit over 100 days, tweeting or posting on Instagram with the hashtag #100Days.

I have lots of ideas and couldn’t wait for the start date so just got on with my own version, without knowing what I expected out of it except a hunch that something new wanted to emerge. Absolutely miles out of my comfort zone here! My plan simply revolves around writing something positive everyday, and picturing that somehow. I post on twitter, Instagram and my Tumblr page, and to friends on Facebook, labelling the day number and some brief thoughts.

Now, ten days in, I realise what I’ve committed to – it’s a big, fat, juicy mystery. That’s it! But because I have faith and courage on my side, I reckon it’s worth putting one foot in front of the other on this mysterious path, knowing that all those steps along the way are going to take me somewhere.

Sharing each step so publicly can throw up raw and vulnerable feelings, no doubt. But it’s a kind of accountability, to myself, to my friends, communities. It is frightening; revealing.

But the mystery of a project unfolding is also exciting, surprising, and delightful, and that’s what to keep pursuing in tiny, incremental little steps.  

So how about you? What’s your project, or dream, or adventure, or risky business plan? Perhaps you can take some encouragement from these words along your journey, and share with us how you get on.

*
If any of this struck a chord, here are some more thoughts on the topic:

Another post on the creative process theme, looking at what resources we have in times of the mess.

And for when you’re just knackered and need a break, have a read of this post!