Category Archives: Creativity

Lighting the dark

Imagine you are living many, many hundreds of years ago, relying on the land around to sustain you, not buying out of season food air-freighted in from far countries. Winter’s grip still holds you firmly, you and your tribal family worry there will not be enough to eat to see you through the season, that the new crops will not come in time.

But today in the North is Imbolc, a Celtic celebration of the growing light, one of the great cross-quarter days of the year. Both Pagans and Christians celebrate the Goddess Brigid/Saint Bridget, bringer of poetry, healing and the fire of smithcraft. Perhaps, all those hundreds of years ago, you would be gathered close around a fire at the centre of your roundhouse with other elders, swapping stories of the past and the future, or walking out to observe the subtle quickening of the land, its expectant energy.

In these times today, a friend of mine said “it’s our art that will get us through”. And I think that’s true. Our arts, and our crafts and our storytelling will be the light.

Imbolc blessings to you all.

What is “creative”?

When I shared my last blog post about some amazing creative Hollywood nonagenarians, my friend and collaborator Lynne commented asking what counts as “creative”.

For me, it’s a really wide definition, but more on that in a minute.

Many Pilgrim’s Moon readers are wonderfully creative in the classic sense: artists, poets, crafters, dancers, writers, cooks, gardeners. I would name some of you here but I don’t want to leave anyone out!

But… what of those who build businesses, who parent or grandparent amazing kids, who keep a warm, welcoming home, who are fierce friends? Maybe you can throw together an outfit in an unusual way, or maybe you’re that quiet work colleague everyone underestimates until you move to a new job and everything falls apart.

There are creative teachers and rote teachers. There are medical staff who minister to the whole human, and there are those who think of the human body as a machine with parts that need fixing. There are public servants and politicians who go against the grain of our cynicism, and there are the others.

Can you learn to be creative?

Can you learn to be creative? My answer to that is no. You are already innately creative, we all are, it is the expression of it and our self-confidence that are the variables.

The better question is: how can you learn to express your creative gifts?

Learning together?

Getting older is a strange animal, don’t you think? Often we feel more confident, but there are sticking points. Having the confidence to live more creatively can be one of them.

One book I’ve found very helpful so far is Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Many of you will be familiar with it (it’s the Morning Pages” book). It follows a 12-week format and I have to confess I’ve never finished the full twelve weeks.

I have the germ of an idea: would any readers be interested in getting together to work through The Artist’s Way?

I’m not sure how it would work yet. Maybe like a reading group, getting together here on Pilgrim’s Moon every week for twelve weeks to discuss the previous week’s reading and actions. Maybe another online format.

What do you think? If you’d be interested, let me know in the comments, or via the contact form.

It might just be an interesting thing to do together…

Spending time making a living

Wildflowers in a field

Writing my morning pages today, my thoughts were spinning on the familiar hamster wheel of keeping afloat financially.

I found myself writing the phrase “making a living” as I jotted down thoughts on how to do so. But then the peculiarity of the phrase struck me. Do we really “make a living”? What does it mean? Because the phrase is generally used in a financial sense, it seems to mean “making money”. Is having money the same as living? No.

And then I also found myself writing about how I spend my time. Again a financial reference. We “spend” money and we seem used to the idea that we also “spend” time.

These words seem very utilitarian, and if we are to live joyful lives, they can’t be utilitarian ones. This seems to be pointing me towards a shift in my thinking, towards joy, or to quote Joseph Campbell, to “following our bliss”.

I’m aware that people living in abject poverty no doubt feel both ground down and seriously pissed off when they hear about philosophies such as voluntary simplicity or if they happen to come across this Gospel verse:

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. (Matthew 6 28:29)

But for those of us living lives of relative privilege, don’t we have a duty to think outside the constraints of “making and spending” and turn towards joy in our lives? Make our lives in the truly creative sense of the word?

I believe that in our journeying through the last part of our years on this beautiful planet, living creative lives grounded in simplicity is the way to joy. What about you?

Lonely for beauty

Composition huile de teck

I was painting a chair yesterday, listening to Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes read The Creative Fire, when I heard her use the phrase “Lonely for Beauty”.

Why was I painting a chair? Because function is important, but not the only important thing in life. Needing a space to eat and entertain, I had bought a pine table with six chairs. They were second-hand from a local charity shop. Solid, functional, a good shape, comfortable chairs. But varnished with that particularly violent 1980s-style orange-y finish. So I’m painting each piece a pale grey-green, using Annie Sloan chalk paints, waxing and buffing to a gorgeous sheen, not even trying to cover up the chips and dents, because they are part of the character of the wood.

And I’m having to do it slowly. The nights are drawing in and it’s impossible to paint well in artificial light, so I have to do a piece or two each weekend. The table is done, one chair is finished, two are in progress.

Why am I telling you this? Because I think the world is lonely for beauty, and beauty often doesn’t come instantly. As I wait (im)patiently for daylight, for first then second coats to dry, as I buff so hard my muscles ache, I know that at the end of it all I will have added a touch of beauty to what was pedestrian.

How can we add beauty?

It’s been tough to read or watch the news the past few months. Always is, but lately the constant demonstrations of the ugliest side of human nature has, I think, affected us all.

Perhaps there’s a particular role we can play in the world, we women in our elder years. With all our chips and dents. Because we are beginning to know (Know: to apprehend clearly and with certainty) that we are the ugliness and we are the beauty. So maybe our task is to begin again continually to choose one over the other. Sometimes we won’t be able to choose beauty. Sometimes it will be a black bile day.

But in a world that’s lonely for beauty, every tiny act of creativity, every tattered piece of kindness can be our work in this part of our lives.

What do you think?

Is yours an Earth Pathway?

Each year, I get a copy of the most beautiful diary you can possibly imagine. Called Earth Pathways, it is chock-full of poetry and other magical words, art work and festivity. Each day has the phases of the moon and sunrise and sunset times, and the festivals which mark the turning wheel of the year. (Northern hemisphere.)

A little while ago, Annie at Earth Pathways contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in writing about them here, and of course I jumped at the chance. We decided to publish in the form of an interview.

And I have two copies of the 2014 diary to give away! For the chance to win one, just leave a comment on this post telling us why you’d like a copy. I’ll put all the names in a hat and will draw out two winners next Monday, 11th November.

Here’s the Earth Pathways interview – such richness:

1. Describe the Earth Pathways diary in six adjectives!

  • EP Inner Cover-page-001 Inspirational
  • Informative
  • Visionary
  • Sumptuous
  • Celebratory
  • Love-full (a newly created adjective!)

2. What are the driving ideas and themes?

Our strapline is ‘Inspiring our connection to the land’ and the diary is very much about our deep love and passion for these isles and our collective vision for a future that is sustainable, fair and that benefits all. It was hugely important to us to celebrate the work of UK writers and artists who shared our vision and we’re still amazed by the most wonderful and inspirational contributions we receive every year.

We wanted the diary to be a networking resource that would inspire all those living with awareness and care for our beautiful Earth. And we also wanted to encourage people to get out there and connect with the land, to really tune in to these special times, create their own rituals and love song to the Earth.

EP Out of the earth-page-001Because connecting deeply to the land is at the heart of all we do, we decided that we would use the cycle of the seasons and the Celtic Wheel of the Year as the structure and context to place all of the diary’s artwork and writing. We also include Moon phases and signs, sunrise and sunset times, moonrise and moonset times and some astrological information for the UK.

As a co-operative, we see community and community-building as essential to making the changes so important to the future of our Earth, which is OUR future, the future of our children and of generations to come. So you will also find in the diary information and inspiration from community-led initiatives such as the Transition Town movement, Permaculture and other eco pioneers.

We use some of the profits from the diary to help projects that benefit the Earth through local community initiatives. Since 2011 we have given funding to educational courses focussing on Nature, biodiversity and wildlife, funded a bursary placement for a herbalism course and made grants to various community gardens and allotments. Most recently we have made awards to an animal rescue centre, a community garden’s bee project, Wool against Weapons, a forest garden and a Sacred Grove project.

3. The diary is full to bursting with beautiful words and images – where do you find your contributors?

EP Soil-page-001For our first diary we tapped into our personal networks. Between us we knew lots of friends who were artists so we just put the word out and had a fantastic response. Each year since we have invited submissions of artwork and writing from anyone who shares our love of this land and our vision of positive change. You don’t have to be a professional artist or writer. All submissions need to be with us by October 31st each year and we look at each and every one of them! Details of how to submit work can be found on our website and in the diary itself.  We offer all contributors to the diary a 40 word profile and a free diary for each contribution published, plus the opportunity to buy copies of the diary at a cheap rate for the year they are in the diary. We felt in this way we were fostering the spirit of co-operation and that it would be a way of us ‘giving something back’ to them.

4. What would you say to people who believe paper diaries are an endangered species in these days of smartphones etc?

EP Woodland-page-001We reckon paper diaries are much easier and quicker to use than an app, plus they’re hard to mislay, unlike a smartphone! And they never need charging up … More than that, our diary is quite simply a visual delight and offers something beautiful and inspiring to look at EVERY day and that’s even before you write in it. You can somehow immerse yourself in a paper diary like ours in a way that you can’t with a flat screen phone app.

Our diary users tell us that the diary speaks to them in more ways than just telling the date or sunrise times. Our diaries are hugely personal. Each edition is unique and makes a lovely reference point to what our users were moved by in previous editions. Unlike an online app, you can simply pick up a past year’s diary, look through and be inspired all over again. It’s a tactile thing too, there’s something about the touch of (recycled) paper that feels more personal than a plastic case, and something about using a pen and paper that stimulates creativity, be it capturing spontaneous thoughts or simply doodling.

5. Who makes the diary happen each year, and how did you get started?

EP Owl-page-001The diary was the ‘vision’ of  Glennie Kindred and Jaine Rose and it began about 6 years ago following a conversation they had at the Big Green Gathering. They’d both admired the American “We’Moon’ diary but felt that they wanted something that related more directly to these isles and that had UK contributors and artists. The idea grew very quickly. That first conversation in July led to a meeting at Glennie’s house in Derbyshire in September 2007 and the concept of Earth Pathways was born. They had no money to set the wheels in motion but then the idea to ask friends to lend them money “came in a big flash” and they created the idea of ‘buying’ a returnable Moonshare of £100 each. In this way they raised £2,500 in 3 months, which paid for the first print run of the diary. While running a workshop on the Isle of Wight, Glennie met artist Hannah Willow and told her about the diary idea. Hannah was very encouraging and put out the word to her large network of friends. Glennie’s reputation as a well-established writer and artist gave the diary project credibility. And it snowballed. Friends told friends, who told others and the money to fund the first Earth Pathways diary was raised. In the beginning there was a great deal of trepidation and some major setbacks but everything evolved from genuine heart-energy and trust. The diary has now become a firm favourite with many people and has sold out several times in the past few years. This is tremendously encouraging for us because it tells us we are on track and means we can continue to give away grants to help new UK Earth- benefiting initiatives.

Diary schedules mean that we are always working two years ahead. Once all the submissions of artwork and writing are received (deadline 31st October each year) all members of the team have a say on each and every piece submitted. We later hold our ‘Weaving Circle’ where those contributions that have made it through the first round of voting are viewed again and the final selections made. This is a painstaking process. Members of the team get very passionate about the contributions they vote on – which is exactly as it should be. Once the selections are agreed, there then follows the huge task of matching image to appropriate writing. The overall art direction, proofing and deadlines are skilfully managed by Glennie in conjunction with her daughter May Kindred-Boothby.

EP Moonlight-page-001The Earth Pathways team grew out of the jobs that needed doing – people just seemed to come along at the right time and do the jobs that played to their strengths. In the beginning Glennie and Jaine did everything and Debs Milverton took charge of the database. All of the contributors to the first diary became the larger network that the Earth Pathways team tapped into for team resources. Several members of the current team were recommended by mutual friends.

About the time the team realised that they needed astrological data for the diary, Glennie had an email from Lucille Valentine asking her about one of her books. In the email Lucille mentioned that she was an astrologer. Glennie said “we’re looking for an astrologer!” She then discovered that Lucille had worked on a similar kind of diary in her native South Africa. Glennie had also met Tam (Peirson) at festivals and she became the “post persona” then head of sales and distribution. Suzi Goose was a friend of Hannah Willow and Mezzie Lucerne Lambourne had been recommended by Carolyn Hillier. The whole evolution of the team was very organic and people appeared in response to the next need …Everyone has day jobs too – Glennie and Jaine are both artists and writers, Debs teaches piano, Tam is an astrologer and NLP practitioner, Suzi an artist and sacred tattooist, Mezzie a textile artist, Lucille is an astrologer, Brian Boothby a masseur, Annie Keeling a celebrant and May Kindred-Boothby, a full-time art student.

6.  I believe you’re a co-operative – what has this structure taught you about working together?

Goodwill, endless patience and chocolate are a must! The obvious thing is that everyone has a voice and equal say in how we are run and the diary we produce. The structure itself enables us to hold firmly to our core values. We do argue, often fiercely, but ultimately when we reach an impasse we go right back to the principles we started off with because they are the yardstick by which we define ourselves and by which we are judged. Invariably our starting point is co-operation, sometimes we may have to compromise, but the original ‘vision’ of the diary still holds true and provides us with that important ‘line of sight’ so that we know where we are headed. It keeps us on course.

As a co-operative we share any profits from the diary sales and fundamental to our constitution is group agreement on how those profits are distributed. We use some of our profits to make annual funding awards to a variety of UK projects that support and benefit the Earth. (For info on the projects we are funding this year or details on how to apply for future funding, please visit our website).

7. How can readers order their copy of Earth Pathways 2014?

Please visit our website: click here.

We value you buying directly from our website as a greater return of the profits becomes available for financing the next production of the diary and to fund small community projects that help the Earth.

You can also keep up to date with what we’re doing, involved with, championing etc via our Facebook page.

__________________

Thanks so much to Annie and all at Earth Pathways for such interesting insights and for the gift of two free copies of the 2014 Diary. Remember: leave a comment to this post saying why you’d like a copy for the chance to win. (If you’re reading this in email, click through to get to the site.)

All the sumptuous images courtesy of Earth Pathways: click to see full size.

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