Another month and time to share what’s been in my soup pot of creativity lately. With the stay at home orders, it has been most interesting to see how that has affected inspiration. Yes, I’ve had more time without the need to go out for all the million little things but it wasn’t always easy to be inspired. The current world is one we have never experienced. There were, indeed, days where it just seemed like everything was upside down and backward and there wasn’t much that could inspire me. And in the past week, our world has shown us new/old horrors. I’ve debated whether to publish this post and even asked my Creative Circle whether it was a good idea, given current events, to share. They encouraged me to do so with the recognition that establishing balance in our lives can create a ripple effect and influence how we show up in the world.
Probably the largest source of inspiration for me, this past month was the world coming alive again after winter. Everywhere I looked, every day, the world was coming alive. We are fortunate to live surrounded by nature. I took many walks around our property, which includes 3 acres of woodland. Some days, we would take long rides along the many back roads that wind their way up and over the hills and valleys of this area. Surrounding myself with nature, particularly in Spring (my favorite season for all it potential), brought me a strong dose of peace and inspiration most days. (Image on left, Shadows on the Back Roads, was created during one of our back roads wandering and brought a sense of peace.)
I have tried to make note of the gifts of this time. It can be too easy to focus only on the losses. There have been many gifts but a simple yet profound one, for me, was the dogwood bloom. I have had a love affair with dogwoods since I was a teenager living in Pennsylvania. In New England where I spent my earlier years, they were not so prevalent. As a teenager, I loved the way the dogwoods blossomed before they leafed out and the blossoms, especially on the wild trees in the still winter-bare forests, looked like butterflies floating in the air. It was a goal of mine to drive Virginia’s Skyline Drive in the spring when the dogwoods were in blossom. We tried a few times but always missed the bloom. The past few years we have been traveling in April or May and seemed to miss a lot of the bloom up in the mountains. Well, we were here for the entire spring and I discovered that there was no need to make a special trip anywhere. The hills and forests all around us are dotted with dogwood trees everywhere. Even our 3-acre woods, I discovered, has 3 wild dogwoods. The dogwood bloom seemed to last for weeks and weeks this year and I savored every single blossom. No special trip necessary.
I spent a great deal of time photographing in the studio and editing and creating images in Photoshop. Days when I just couldn’t focus, I would intentionally grab my camera and focus in that way. Photographing and creating images is my way of going back to basics. The mechanics of it, the science of it, are second nature to me at this point, so it has a calming, centering effect. What in your life is like that? Do more of that.
Near the onset of the quarantine, an encaustic instructor that I have studied with, offered a 12-week Creative Circle, an online group that meets weekly via Zoom to encourage each other creatively. The weekly dose of connection with other creative people (hey, just other people) has been something to look forward to and has been one of the reasons I’ve kept creating. Consequently, I have spent quite a bit of time creating, playing, and learning with encaustics.
Images in Gallery Top: Scattering Seeds, Dogwood Blossom Butterflies, Oak Leaf Floating Bottom: Beech Leaves Encaustic, leaping greenly spirits of trees Encaustic, Evening Light Encaustic
Staying away from too much news, the internet, social media has become imperative. More than ever, it is too easy to get sucked down that hole and find yourself constantly checking your phone or computer. Usually, nothing has changed in those 5 seconds since I last checked. 🙂 Freedom is a tool that I have used for several years but it has been particularly helpful now. With it, I can “turn off” social media sites, or another group of distracting sites, for several hours a day. After I’ve informed myself enough about what’s going on in the world, I can move on and focus on the things that matter and try to make a difference.
Like many people, I spent some time with a puzzle. I like puzzles but don’t do them frequently. Our wonderful local toy store offered a great selection that could be ordered online and delivered. This was beautiful but probably the most difficult puzzle I have ever done. I’d work on it very sporadically so it ended up taking me about 5 weeks to finish. The gift, though, was in all those moments of concentration and distraction rather than the finishing.
It’s been difficult to find any focus with reading at times, however, this book has short, easy chapters that make me think about how mindfully I move through the world. In Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk and peace activist brings mindfulness practice into our everyday lives. One particular essay that spoke to me was Cooking our Potatoes.
Sometime in the past few months, I became aware of Carrie Newcomer. Her website describes her as an “American singer-songwriter, poet, author at the intersection of folk, Americana and progressive spirituality.” If Not Now resonates especially well today. Though all her music has been prominent in my constantly streaming playlist and has fed my soul.
This month’s soup photo is appropriate for this time of quarantine, good for those days when you don’t want to make a trip to the grocery store. It’s is what I have often called “bottom of the refrigerator” soup. It was made with a bit of this and a bit of that that I discovered in the freezer, fridge, or pantry. No recipe needed, just imagination.
This was a much longer list that I’ve previously shared. Perhaps, these times call for a longer list to help us stay inspired and engaged in life. I hope you have a bright and nourishing creative soup this month.
So well written Gail, and so on point. I’m glad you decided to share. Living in Minneapolis this last week has shown me how important community is…..whether that be your neighbor or a fellow artist across the country. Thank you for your calming voice.
Clare, I am so happy that my words could have even a small measure of comfort.