Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Wellness Adventure Continues!

Here we are:  the next 10 pages of the wellness quest. These are days of highs and lows, stopping and starting, on track and off. Over the Christmas period it was difficult to stay focused, easy to let things slide. These ups and downs, stops and starts are a normal part of a process of change. Strength comes and goes. Attention wanders. Sometimes it seems easier to live with less than good health than to push the river enough to make it better. But by the end of the first month, I feel that new patterns are emerging and changes are gradually being implemented.

Day 11

These are homemade shortbread biscuits given to me by a friend. So many words and phrases of self talk go with eating. As they came up, I stamped them in.

One of those inexplicably heavy, melancholy days. Even though they are low and gloomy, they are not without interest. I like to get to know these feelings, give them names, differentiate one from another. Befriend them, even.

It wasn't my intention to sit out in the backyard in the dark drawing my washing. But when I saw the clothes and the Jacaranda in the cool light of the moon - it was just irresistible.

There were a bunch of days when I did no recording or drawing at all. They seemed to pass very quickly and I was shocked that I had almost forgotten that I was doing this. How easy it is to be side-tracked, distracted, turned astray? But here I am, back again. Not as regularly as before, but still going on, keeping going.

Yeah, this was a really hot day.

More stopping and starting, on track, off track, on track again. Wandering off track - how much harder it is to get back on track than to stay on track in the first place. Why am I making this harder than it needs to be?
So here I am, taking myself to task, setting the ground rules again clearly.

Simple food, coffee and water - a picnic by the river on Christmas afternoon. What you see here is mostly leftovers. Eat first, draw later.

I can't believe some of the conversations I have with myself. I have such a talent for persuading myself that what I feel like doing is better than what I know I ought to do. What's laughable is that I'm the one who decided what I ought to do and fully support it - or at least one of me does....The others are kicking and screaming and weaselling around trying to convince me that I agree with them and giving me such excellent reasons! No wonder my head hurts. It's full of my very own personal demons.

Knitting is very therapeutic for me. Especially knitting small things that can be finished quickly. I get bored knitting only one colour, so most of the things I make have stripes. My favourite part is going through all my yarn and patterns and then casting on. And changing colours. I like that too. Also chatting and knitting with friends is really nice. So yes, knitting is good for me.

One of the things that is contributing to my growing sense of wellbeing is having a vision of wonderful accomplishments in the not too distant future and mapping out the steps to accomplishing them. I've been doing a lot of planning. Then implementing and adapting the planning in the light of the implementing. I've filled up most of a bullet journal just this year. Next post, or maybe the one after, I'll show you my colour-based planning and review system. It's the colours that keep me going back to it. If I forget, remind me!
Till next time.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My Wellness Project: the first ten days

The idea came to me, as ideas so often do, when I was outside my usual routine, far from my usual sphere, with nothing particularly pressing to do. It was a flight from Perth to Melbourne - a few hours when expansiveness of mind seemed a natural offset to the cramped confines of the physical environment. I had been thinking about getting well, how lousy I am at following the good advice of health professionals, how longstanding and insidious my chronic condition, how much I wanted to have the energy to do the things I need and want to do.

A friend had recently told me she was going back to Weight Watchers to lose 5 kilos. The good thing about WW, she said, was it made you feel accountable. I thought about accountability. Could I create my own accountability platform? Could I commit to a wellness endeavour by making it a drawing project?

I decided to start on the first of December. As with any new venture, it was important to begin by assessing the situation. Taking stock, setting intentions, making a plan. I already had a brand new sketchbook - a lovely smooth-paged Hahnemuhle Nostalgie. Here's the first day's entry, all the bits of me that aren't working as they should and all my resolutions:

The next day, I began following the trail I had set out for myself:

Writing in Chinese is an acknowledgement of the value learning another language has for my mental wellbeing. This was the day my laptop crashed. A test of my willingness to stay calm, not give in to rantings and dramatisations. An opportunity to practise not stressing out.

Walking in fresh air, swimming in the sea - so good for me! And before I even got to eat those healthy vegetables, the beauty of their colours and shapes was already making me feel good.

Day three addresses my supplement conundrum. These are all good for me. They will help to detoxify my overloaded liver, plug the holes in my leaky gut and send in some good guy gut flora. They will feed me the things I'm lacking. They will keep me going. They sit in full view on my bench so I can't miss them, and I still forget to take them or choose to avoid taking them. They sit there getting closer to their use-by date. They aren't cheap. I should take them, but I mostly don't.

Home made popcorn - an acceptable snack food.

Here I have made a note that I felt lighter. It was not a physical lightness; there was no weight loss. But there was a lightness of mood that I was feeling, as though a weight was slowly lifting and the air was clearing and some of the grime was disappearing from my window on the world.

Reading for inspiration, to let the fine awareness and wisdom of others open my own mind and heart to other ways of understanding life, the universe and everything. I'm making a reading list. Starting with Lao Zi.

It is good that there are a few cafes and restaurants where it's easy to get food I can eat. It's getting easier all the time. Almond milk latte - what a wonderful thing! Gluten free toast and avocado is a great standby. Potato, zucchini and avocado chips at Grill'd. Tom Yum soup...

A review of the first week - all in all, I was getting used to the food plan, still not up to doing exercise or at least persuading myself I wasn't up to it, and feeling generally good in terms of mood and outlook.

On Day 8 I considered swapping coffee for green tea - it didn't happen, or hasn't happened yet. I note the difficulty of owning up publicly to doing things I've said I wouldn't do.

And here we are at Day Ten, the day I overcame all my reluctance, dislike of crowds, despising of fireworks and went to Symphony in the City with a couple of ex-students and had a glorious time. I contemplated the paucity of music in my life and though about doing something about it...

So these were the first ten days.
It feels really good to be doing this.
The thing that I'm finding more and more is that my wellness is served  as much and maybe more by doing the drawings and loving the beauty of everyday things and the people in my life and all the amazingness that there is than by the rigorous adherence to schedules of medications and weight tables and exercise programmes. Sure, those are useful and I may start paying attention to them pretty soon, but for now, it's going ok.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Getting Pastelliferous

I like oil pastels. I like the richness of their colour and the way you can blend them. I particularly like the way they look on brown paper.

The first ones I did were on paper bags. 

Then I started carrying a roll of wrapping paper around with me. The outlines are done with either a brush pen or a good sized chunky marker. I like the thick dark lines you can get with them.

The latest oil pastel drawing is quite big. It's the little kumquat tree outside my living room window.
It's drawn on the opened out surface of a sturdy brown carry bag. (you can tell by the handles). It covered my coffee table, and I used a big brush and indian ink to draw the outlines.

My box of pastels is getting quite well used up now and filling in a large area with small pieces of oil pastel takes some time,  especially when putting down more than one layer of colour. Also, I have yet to find a way to buy replacement pastels individually. I can just imagine a house full of all the colours I hardly ever use, because each time I use up my white, blues and yellows, I have to buy a whole new box!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Tasmania: the East Coast

This almost qualifies as a throwback, since a couple of months have gone by since I took a slow drive from Launceston, through the Fingal Valley, to St. Helens, then to Hobart, with two nights at Swansea on the way.

The things I love most about  holidays like this:

1. They are full of unstructured time. No schedule. Anything can happen! Having a few days of unstructured time is what, for me, best promotes creative thinking and new perspectives. Minimal routine, maximum productivity. Strange, perhaps, but true.

2. I'm alone. Bliss.

3. There is no plan. If the beach where I eat breakfast just begs to be walked along, I can spend the rest of the morning walking. If I meet someone on the beach, I can stay and talk as long as I like. No "sorry, gotta go, gotta be in blah place by blah o'clock". And without a fixed plan, it's as though my vision expands from something narrow and driven, to something wide and open, ready to involve and be involved in all the world:  newly flowering wattles,  the mutter of fishermen on the rocks,  the changing colours of the sea from shore to horizon, thinking about how aboriginal people would have lived in a place like this, the unusual number of motorbikes on the road, erosion, cloud formations, unemployment, rural lifestyles, family history, coffee, languages, shoreline geology.... .

4. Beauty. It is good, now and then, to be in a place where, at every turn there is gut-punching, heart-stopping, soul-soaring beauty. To participate in it, to resonate with it. To exercise that heart muscle that recognises and identifies with it. To be overwhelmed and swept away.

5. Remembering, These are places that are familiar to me from long ago. They are rich with memory and experience. I love travelling through unfamiliar places too, but this is a different kind of love.

6. Time to reflect, time to imagine, time to draw and write.

Here are some of the drawings from that drive:

The Ben Lomond Massif seen from the Fingal Valley. There were so many stunning views on this clear, cold day, but very few places where the road had sufficient shoulder space to pull over. 

Binalong Bay, just north of St. Helens. 

Granite rocks at Binalong Bay.

Swansea: the view from my window on a quiet, misty morning.

Some broken shells I picked up, walking along Beer Barrel Beach, a little south of St. Helens.

More broken shells, these I collected above the high tide mark in Swansea, some drawn there, others finished when I got to Hobart.

A short stop on the way south, for some breakfast and a bit of conversation.

At my sister's house, looking out of the window from my bed, first thing in the morning.

These are the drawings in my sketchbook from those few days. I'm glad you could join me!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Point Walter Project

I have always loved scientific drawings. Botanical, zoological, mechanical, astronomical. Especially those drawings in which the passion to see, to understand, to compare and unravel exceeds the desire to produce a pretty product. Drawings where curiosity rules, where awe is evident and where the majesty of the seemingly mundane shines forth.

I also have a strange urge to document things. Travels, dreams, everyday life, the progress of gardens, sightings of birds, lizards, flowering eucalypts, shells, feathers,  artefacts. Mostly, though, my efforts at documentation have been unsustained and/or unsystematic. More like random jottings in search of a notebook, first pages of journals abandoned in the fluster of life or great ideas that were never executed.

My most recent documentary project is to draw the sandbar at Point Walter.
The brief I have given myself is quite simple. Whenever I go to Point Walter and walk out along the sandbar, I draw something that catches my eye. If it's a small thing, I bring it home with me. If it is big, I draw it in situ. I try to record the things I notice: what birds are here today? What's the weather like? A lot more jellyfish than usual...

So here are a few pages:

Fragments of shells and pottery washed up on the sandbar.

Looking south from the sandbar.

Swans out on the sandbar, in the shallow water. They are not at all afraid, turning themselves into all kinds of pretzel as they sleep or preen.

One day, I found numerous crab body parts washed up. When I tried to find an online field guide to make an identification, 99% of the information listed under the heading 'Crabs of the Swan River Estuary' was about how to cook them. What has happened to natural history?

Another day I found this fan folded up and stuck vertically into the mud in shallow water. 
          The Uchiha Sasuke figurine was 100 metres further on.

Jellyfish. I had to draw them on the run as they floated in the water. On the surface,  leaves of one of the common river plants are also floating along.

Crested terns, with rainclouds. Some raindrops on the page, too.

The view north on a cloudy day, and some pied oyster catchers.

The project continues. Lately the tides have been too high to walk out far. There is also a sign up, and a fence, barring entry to the little tufted island at the end of the sandbar so that birds can safely do their nesting. I want to go there.  I want to draw every species of plant on that little bump at the end of the spit.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Rubbish: Renaissance

Picking up discarded things

and looking at them,
tracing them with my eyes and pen,

is a kind of renaissance,

in which a piece of pipe becomes monumental, bottle tops are reborn as a gem collection or a troupe of dancers holding out their skirts, and a flattened can lies on my page like a classical reclining nude. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Three Bags Full

What an unadulterated pleasure it is to put white colour on a brown bag. I can't explain it, it is illogical that this should be such a thorough thrill when any colour on any surface involves the same actions and similar outcomes. But white - pencil, pastel, crayon, paint - on brown paper - paper bag, wrapping paper - it's the ultimate. Of course, there's art supply shop kraft paper which is admirably sturdy and hardworking ( the corduroy of papers) and any number of sweetly tinted sketch pads. Trust me, nothing comes close to the humble bag.

Potato bags are quite tough and a little glossy on the outside. Here are a couple of potato bag pictures:

Both of these are drawn with oil pastels. I love the rich colour and the luscious way they stroke the paper as though the two of them were just made for each other!

The last one is drawn on a mushroom bag; much less sturdy than its potato cousin, altogether frailer and more delicate; wistful, even. Oil pastels just felt much too robust for this tender stuff, so I worked with watercolour pencils, gently and tenderly as if I were ministering to an aged aunt. Indeed, there is a similarity in the matter of wrinkliness....Even so, adding water almost resulted in a total collapse. Happily, however, structural integrity was restored after a good long rest in a warm spot.

This is the pot of Earl Grey tea I had at Point Walter this afternoon, looking out over the Swan River.
A wonderful slice of time, pleasantly interrupted at one point when a very cheery, blustery man came over to have a look and told me stories about his mother's plans to take painting classes after her retirement, his exploits with a new border collie pup named Kip, and his own disinclination to draw.

I'm thinking of making a collection of bag drawings. I get all tingley now when I buy potatoes....