Category Archives: Growing and learning

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…

Breathing again

Well, I really didn’t do very well in my head last year. With everything happening in the world, I allowed myself to become completely caught up in destructive thinking. Inside my mind was a dark, hateful place. Like a series of snapshots from the most violent Grimm Brothers fairy tales. Which I guess matched the outside world, but I got lost in it, it was all I saw. External symptoms: passive aggressive behaviour, sometimes outright aggressive behaviour, overeating, drinking too much. Inside I was judgmental, contemptuous, paralysed and deeply fearful.

But gradually I began to be able to step back, and to realise that the reflective practices I rely on had slipped. I re-started my breathing meditation practice, using the Heartmath Inner Balance app on my iPad. Yes, I could have just sat and tried to meditate, but I needed a bit of an external crutch, and have found this really helpful since I bought it a few years ago.

I went on a Facebook fast. For ten days over the festive period I didn’t log in once. I know that many readers aren’t on Facebook anyway, but it was a really interesting experience not “popping in” to see what people were talking about. I realised it had become a bit of an addiction for me, an automatic action to check in every time I picked up my phone. And it was feeding my anger and fear because of the constant sharing of links or quotes which were inflammatory, often sneering and rarely helpful. But… I love keeping in touch easily with people I rarely see in real life, and many friends share immensely constructive and interesting stuff. So I returned, but far less frequently, and I have “unfollowed” several people who I like but whose updates make me crazy. It isn’t that I only want to see fluffy bunny stuff on Facebook or anywhere else, far from it, but it’s a question of balance.

And I kept up my renewed breathing practice every morning.

I started going to bed early enough to get sufficient sleep. I’ve realised over the years that I need eight hours. All those dynamic entrepreneurs and politicians who can manage on five hours a night or whatever are welcome to it. I like my sleep. I feel incredibly sorry for people who are insomniacs, life must be so tough. To sleep (undisturbed by late night Facebook blitzes) helps a lot.

And I kept space for breathing every morning.

I began eating more healthily and as we speak I’m in the middle of “dry January“. The second year running I’ve done this. Drinking alcohol is habit as much as anything. There are triggers to be aware of. Eating a meal? Why not have a nice glass of red wine with it? Or two? Coming home stressed after the day? Why not a nice relaxing gin and tonic? A lot of people struggle lifelong with alcohol consumption. I don’t think I’m one of them, but it’s as well to be self-aware and to stop every so often. (Talking of stopping, I’m one of those people who finds it easier to stop an unhealthy habit than to cut down. Gretchen Rubin has done some really interesting work on “Abstainers -v- Moderators” – click here for the link.)

And still I keep my breathing practice every morning. Do you see the pattern here? It was re-starting this meditative breathing practice that was the foundation for everything else.

I find it deeply frustrating that no matter how old I get, I still keep falling into the same damn patterns and learning the same lessons. The patterns are often more subtle (although they weren’t last year) and the lessons more abstruse, but still same old, same old. But having the tools to recognise the patterns is priceless – more on that soon.

Meanwhile, there’s work to do this year, and I’m feeling more ready for it.

Taking a fall


Two weeks before Christmas, on a Monday morning, I had a nasty fall in my kitchen.

Why am I telling you? Because there was something about it that foreshadowed for me what it may be like to be old and frail. And that got me thinking about vulnerability.

But first, the fall. It was, perhaps, down to vanity. I had bought a new pair of shoes (see pic). They are gorgeous: metallic pewter leather lace-ups which give a real edge of drama to a pair of plain grey flannel trousers, or jeans. Wearing them for the first time that morning, I checked myself out in the mirror: looking spiffy! But what I had not reckoned with was their virgin, smooth, slippery soles.

I reached up to take a breakfast dish from a cupboard in my kitchen and slipped on something on the floor – a tiny patch of oil perhaps. My feet simply went from under me and I fell backwards. You know how these things seem to happen in slow motion? As I fell, I somehow had time to be thankful I had moments before closed up the dishwasher so I wouldn’t bash into it on the way down. And then I connected with the floor and banged the back of my head, hard.

After a stunned second or two, I realised I hadn’t lost consciousness, and that this was probably good! I felt the back of my head and there was no blood or anything else sinister. Shakily, I got to my feet and took stock. No broken bones. Bizarrely, one of the first things I did was jump onto Google and look for symptoms of concussion and head injury. Well trained in the digital world, me! I had no nasty symptoms then, nor in the following days, just a painful lump on my head and, when I awoke the next morning, a lot of aches and pains and bruises on various body parts.

But I couldn’t get the fall out of my mind. I kept obsessing on “what ifs?” What if I had cracked my head open? What if I’d broken a bone? What if I’d been incapacitated? The next day I also managed to catch a nasty cold, and began wondering if the normal muggy-headedness of a cold was something worse. It’s actually taken me until now, two and a bit weeks later, to feel back to normal. I realise I was profoundly shocked by what happened.

Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe we all need to feel vulnerable at times and realise how close we come to the edge. How important it is to keep physically strong but at the same time how the unexpected can still happen. I’m being a little more careful around the house now, but don’t want to be afraid of what might happen, to be too cautious. People of all ages have accidents, some of them fatal. People of all ages get episodes of illness, some sudden and disabling.

Time to get the shoes out again, but this time I’m going to sandpaper the soles first before wearing them. I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere!



Just a few quick thoughts today.

I was chatting with a friend recently, both of us in our early sixties, and we agreed how much we both simply assume there will be loads of tomorrows to do what we want. And hopefully we will have those tomorrows. Barring illness or accident, lifespans are getting longer. We could both easily have another twenty years or more.

I think it’s really healthy to have lots of plans and ideas for the future. Unless… well you know what I’m going to say, don’t you? Unless we get trapped in a kind of ennui or alternatively daily busy-ness and keep putting off our tomorrows. Maybe like me you have a day job which takes up absurd amounts of time. Maybe you’re caring for dependents. Maybe dealing with your own illness or incapacity.

I have this tendency to think in terms of grand plans. Nothing’s worth doing unless I have absolutely weeks or months to give to it. The gorgeous home, the book. But I just this week realised (OK, I’m a slow learner!) that even if I only only have the odd ten minutes here and there it will help. This has only taken me ten minutes to write, it isn’t perfect and doesn’t have to be, because in a very small way it’s moving my writing further along.

What about you? What are you going to spend the odd ten minutes on this week?

Goodnight Grandpa!

(Did you win an Earth Pathways 2014 diary? See the end of this post.)
Will Geer

I used to love the TV show The Waltons. Do you remember it? The large family growing up in Depression-era America, struggling through financial troubles and a changing world seen through the eyes of the eldest son, John-Boy? If you do, you’ll remember the nightly routine of all the family settling down to sleeping calling out goodnight to each other from their separate rooms at the end of each episode.

My favourite character was the proud, irascible, big-hearted, stubborn and wise Grandfather, played by Will Geer.

It wasn’t until a few months ago that I looked up Will Geer and found out what an amazing man he was: award-winning actor, botanist, activist, musician, some-time communist. He toured the Dust Bowl work camps with Burl Ives and Woody Guthrie in the 1930s. At that time he was also the lover of Harry Hay, who credits Geer with his own political awakening. In the 1950s, Geer had the honour of being blacklisted by the House Committee for Un-American Activities, and founded the Theatricum Botanicum in California with his then wife, the actress Herta Ware. (The theatre company is still going strong today.) On the land there, he grew every plant ever mentioned in Shakespeare’s writings. The patriarch Grandpa Zebulon Walton was his last and most famous role, from 1972 to his death in 1978.

He died with his family around him. They recited poetry and sang Guthrie’s anthem This Land is Your Land.

This is all by way of saying that I came across a quote by Geer that really hit me:

I’m a lifelong agitator, a radical. A rebel is just against things for rebellion’s sake. By radical, I mean someone who goes to the roots.

As we grow older, we can rebel against the process of aging, or we can go to the roots of our age and everything it means.

Whatever the activity or the attitude, if it’s rebellion, there’s probably a still small voice inside somewhere saying you’re just in it to rebel against. I know that’s been true of me.

But growing older in radical ways is being true to self.

What might it look like? Embracing age while mourning loss? Using humour not to deflect from uncomfortable truth but to put discomfort in its place? Acknowledging truth about ourselves and about others, good and bad? Speaking up when it’s most important? Wisdom to… well I find myself thinking of the Serenity prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Going to the very roots of things. What would that be like for you?


And the winners are:

And now… drumroll… the two readers whose names came out of the Earth Pathways diary draw are: Towanda and Joanna Paterson! I’ll email to get your snail mail addresses. I’m only sorry we couldn’t send a diary to every person who commented. The Earth Pathways team are delighted at the fantastic enthusiasm.


Fifteen important things for women over fifty

Women laughing

I was amused by a recent article in HuffPost titled 15 Things a Woman Over 50 Should Own. It inspired me to make a similar list, starting with two from HuffPost with which I thoroughly agree. But although there are some material things to “own” in my list, the emphasis is slightly different:

  1. A room of one’s own
  2. A good bra, professionally fitted
  3. Plenty of laughter lines around the eyes
  4. Two or three really close friends
  5. A supply of good books
  6. A way of expressing creativity
  7. A really comfortable bed
  8. An open mind
  9. Quiet time to think
  10. Delicious, nutritious  food
  11. Dreams (still dreamin’ after all these years…)
  12. Love
  13. Good quality cotton bedlinen and fluffy towels
  14. A ‘right fit‘ spiritual practice
  15. A sense of mischief

So those are my ideas? What about you, what would you add to the list?

Photo credit: The Arches

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