Sunday, March 2, 2014

Winter Cocooning and Sketching . . .

We're in Vancouver now, since Friday, a rather whirlwind weekend of lunch with my sister, dinner with my daughter's family, a long, long run, a night at the opera, a visit to my mother-in-law today if the snow slows down. . . .
But I have a reserve of sleep and rest to draw on because . . .

A week ago Friday, my husband and I rode the boat "to town" for a yoga class, and that afternoon, my good friend Alison stopped by for a glass of wine and a lovely catch-up chat. From then, until Thursday -- six whole days! -- when I went into town for another yoga class, I stayed home, going out only for a run or a walk or to shovel the walk or fetch in firewood.
And it was glorious!
I'm not sure how or why I got so tired (although I suspect that training for a marathon may play a small part; and taking work home every weekend might play another; and losing sleep to anxiety dreams yet another ), but I ended up asleep by 10 every night and sleeping through until 6 most mornings. And I complemented that night-time sleep with a nap most afternoons.
Yes, I did some marking, and I read a fair bit of literary criticism to prepare for the next few weeks of classes. I ran 2.5 hours Saturday, another hour each on Tuesday and Wednesday (in my YakTraks), and took a good long walk on Sunday and Monday. Paul was home until Wednesday morning (and he made the trips to town for groceries, fitting in extra yoga classes on the way, stopping at a favourite coffee shop to read the paper, stretching out his away time to leave the house quiet for me, lovely thoughtful man that he is).
I cooked, I knit, I watched far too much TV on Netflix and iTunes (The Good Wife, Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey). I took photos, I blogged. I played CDs I hadn't listened to for ages and ages and wondered how I could have denied myself this pleasure simply because I felt too busy.
And after having tucked it all away six months ago, I got my Illustrated Journal and my pencil and pen and watercolours and brushes out again. I found a little space for them, in both a literal and a metaphorical way,
I cast about for a subject,
and realized I had one right in front of me. . . .






















My skills as an artist are obviously very limited (do pop over and see what Lorrie's done with her far superior skills, having taken my friend Alison's course on the Illustrated Journal -- scroll down to the second entry). But I hope this little sketch is going to remind me how important it is to make time for unwinding, for breathing, for making space. Making time for making space . . . I tend to berate myself if I'm not "doing" -- I feel guilty, accuse myself of laziness. But sometimes the body and the mind just need recharging. Puttering is productive in its own uncanny way. A lesson I keep relearning.

I was surprised, quite honestly, at how loath I was, even at the end of a week, to leave my home, to re-enter the world, even though I was headed, Friday morning, to Vancouver. First stop, lunch with my lovely, lovely sister at Le Crocodile, a little habit we're getting into, every couple of months now, a habit I love. Opera Saturday night. A chance to do my long Saturday morning run over far more interesting terrain than our little island can offer.

Still, part of me wonders how much longer I could have absorbed the creative quiet of my little nest. Part of me knows that I unplugged from the charger with the battery not completely topped up.

A very good start, though.

What about you? Are you content with your own company for long? Or would five days' isolation drive you stark raving you-know-what?

35 comments:

  1. First off let me start by saying your painting is beautiful and you must not second guess your work. I look at the details and the colours and am drawn into your vignette. I applaud how you have spent those snow days cocooning and I heartily agree that time spent in quiet meditation works wonders to calm and ease our busy and hectic schedules. It might surprise you but in retirement you have the option of spending many days puttering and whether you opt to be productive or feed and nourish your soul is up to you. I try to do a bit of both....yoga has helped me reconnect with my breath and sleep quality has drastically improved.
    Living the quiet island life juxtaposed with big city life must be tricky...your living room looks like a cozy place to meditate and retreat, I'd be tempted to wear my pj's all day and dabble in reading, knitting and tv watching too.

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    1. Aw, thanks for your kind encouragement.
      You do seem to have put a nice pace into your retirement and I look forward to trying it out myself eventually. Meanwhile, you're right that balancing big city busy with quieter island life can be tricky. . . . A tricky privilege. . .

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  2. Your week sounds heavenly. I love how your illustration has captured the warmth of the light on your sofa. I'd love to have more non-work, non-family time to get out and do more photography.

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    1. Thanks, Sue. I can imagine that my week sounds absolutely idyllic from your busy life, the juggling of family with a youngster still at home and a demanding career. I'm so fortunate, relatively, at this stage, I know.

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  3. Oh, I crave that sort of isolation. On weekends, if we don't have anything on I tend to hunker down in the house and do domestic stuff and make Spouse do anything 'outside' (although I do go to Kid 2's baseball games). I am a naturally (?) 'busy' person so I feel guilty when I am not doing something productive, but I'm working on that ... Yesterday it was pouring rain all afternoon, so I sat on the couch and watched The Big Chill and did some knitting while dinner simmered on the stove. It was quite delightful.
    I love your watercolour - thanks for the prompt to pull my stuff out again! Your living room is a perfect subject, with all that lovely colour.

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    1. It used to be the biggest treat anyone could give me, time alone in my own home, in those years of having kids at home (I can't believe that there were something like 27-30 of those years, depending how the math gets done!)
      I haven't seen The Big Chill for years -- that sounds like a perfect afternoon.
      And thanks for being kind about the watercolour -- I know how limited my skills are, but it's so satisfying.

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  4. I can feel and see your happiness everywhere. And I have found that 3-5 days alone, every few weeks, is fantastic.

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    1. It's luxurious, isn't it, that kind of time and space to oneself.

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  5. Nesting, with liberal deep, natural sleep- what can be more restorative? Sounds marvelous, and so does your re-entry!

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    1. It was marvelous! I'm going to be remembering it with a sigh over the next few weeks. . .

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  6. A quiet week at home, cocooned on your island with snow all around, sounds like the wonderful rest that you needed. Your living room view sketch is lovely, full of warmth. Finding a suitable subject to sketch/paint can be difficult, I've found.
    Your weekend in Vancouver contrasts well with the solitude of the previous days. I hope you found it equally restorative.

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    1. It was a lovely restful week, and yes, the Vancouver weekend was quite a contrast. Super busy, but restorative in its own way (especially the baby cuddles!) ;-)

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  7. I just returned from my silent retreat and I could have been in silence for a week. Reading, meditating and stretching in a lovely setting with healthy meals provided.... I can be alone for a very long time as I enjoy quiet and the contemplative live a lot.

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    1. I'm so glad you had this time -- what a great way to prepare for your travels.

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  8. Snap!! I have just spent 3 and a half days with my own company and our 2 dogs...husband is coming home tonight. Friday when he left I got out my journal and waterclours and started to paint, still not finished. Saturday I cleared out a room that I have been putting off painting for ages and got to and painted the walls, no interuptions. Bliss. Put my ipod on and turned it up:). Sunday, well I finished off the room by painting all 6 door frames and cleaned up and put everything away. The job isn't quite finished as the doors all need to be painted as well, however my neck has been annoying me, seems it doesn't like me looking up for such a long period of time. I too am bungered down today, just washed my floors and cleaned up a bit. It's over 40degreesCelcius outside, much hotter in the sun, a good old fashioned summers day. I have the airconditioner on and it's very nice here on my chair.
    My paints are beckoning me, I can hear them...time to finish the picture that I started on Friday. Thankyou for blogging
    I always look forward to reading what you have taken the time to write.
    Pearl

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    1. It's wonderful how productive we can be when we get to follow our own rhythm, isn't it? Too bad about your neck, but otherwise sounds as if you had a fabulous time. Thanks for the kind words about my blogging -- I really appreciate reading the comments!

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  9. I am so glad you had a good rest. As it seems, no bad dreams or sleeping problems while you were being nice and considerate with yourself.
    As for the joys of being alone, I absolutely agree with you. A year ago I went on a hiking tour for a week, all by myself, and in was lovely.
    Your painting is very beautiful. I love watercolours, and I wish I could do something like that. I know I'm not very gifted in that direction, and my painting and drwaing classes at school were very poor indeed. A few years ago, though, I made a try with the help of Betty Edward's book and was delighted at the results, but then I gave it up again. No time... (Another thing on the list for when I retire!)

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    1. You're right, Eleonore. The self-care seems to have made a big dent in the sleeping problems.
      Isn't it surprising that so many people fear the idea of being alone when we find it such a precious gift.
      As for the painting, I spent a lifetime telling myself I wasn't "artistic" before realizing that I could, nonetheless, try learning the basics and keeping my own illustrated journal. My friend Alison is such a good teacher, and I've been thrilled to find ways to record what I see in ways that I find satisfying, I hope that you get such an opportunity, perhaps when you retire. . .

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  10. Your painting is wonderful. I have never heard of an illustrative journal. Love the idea of an illustrative journal! I'm definetly an introvert so love alone time and could manage far longer than one week alone, knitting, reading and listening to music. Sounds like a glorious vacation to me.

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    1. Yes, what's great about an illustrated journal is that you keep it for yourself, to amplify your appreciation and memory, particularly of travels -- so for me, I'm not thinking of how others might judge my sketches, and I'm liberated just to play. It's a great way to access a different part of my creative being.
      Glad to hear there's another one of my tribe out there, loving the alone time.

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  11. Your post about your break has made me really excited about spring break arriving in my neck of the woods next week. I would love a day or two of that kind of peace and being left to my own devices, but after that I would want company. My extroversion means that I tend to feel lonely and down after about 48 hours of solitude.

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    1. Many people do find the idea of too much time alone rather unnerving while I get excited if I spend too much time with others. Vive la difference!
      Spring break really feels like such a relief, doesn't it? The adrenaline of performing for classes gets to be way too much by this time of year, and although there's still lots to do during Reading Break, the schedule is so much more amenable -- I feel ready to manage the next 6 weeks of class now. I'm sure you'll enjoy your break, especially since it must be accompanied by days finally get a bit longer.

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  12. What a wonderful break you've had and very well deserved too. Why do they call it a break if we fill the time with chores? I'm not a painter - I wish I had your talent - but I do know how reinvigorating a time of quiet creativity can be and I am glad that you've managed to carve out a little space for some this past week.

    Can I just chip in my thoughts on visible women? Late, I know, but I'm a slow thinker. I've just read something Vivienne Westwood said about clothes and the older woman which I found interesting. It was along the lines of 'First dress to be important, then dress to be sexy'. Well, I might not go full steam ahead on the latter (I don't want to frighten the horses), but I do take her point on dressing to feel important. Not as in Chairman of the Board but in feeling that we matter.

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    1. See above, re my longheld belief that I had no painting talent. I still know how limited I am, but I've also learned that there are basic skills that can be learned.
      As for the break, ours is not actually a holiday but a Reading Break -- time for scholarship and for marking and for administrative stuff without the requirement of classes. I'd love to have a week that had no obligation at all, but given my long summer break, I'd better not complain.
      I think that VW quotation is useful in understanding some of the motivation behind that whole visibility project. I'm continuing to think about this, and I might not be done posting about it. So your delayed comment is worthwhile -- I tend to like to digest conversations as well before I sort out what I think.

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  13. Oh, I would really love to stay in my house for 6 days - with a view from my window. That sounds like a great winter reprieve.

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    1. I suspect you'd make 3 suits and 4 pairs of socks if you had 6 days on your own! ;-)

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    2. Ha! Well, I'd make a top, anyway. And lots of good food.

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  14. Oh, how I loved this post, with your photos of your cheerful, comfortable home! I think that when my battery is low, I could stand 5 days as you did- a retreat, perhaps, in a way? Though, there are times that I am too busy and forget music and art.
    I love the balance and intention which I see in your posts- a whirlwind schedule, a close family, the physical and cultural things you do.

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    1. Thank you so much for the kind words, Megs. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. And yes, it was something like a retreat, that period last week. Isn't it a shame that we get too busy for the very things that we need to rejuvenate us?!

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  15. Thank you for this post. You've inspired me to explore water colour journaling. What a wonderful way to explore, see, and appreciate the moment.

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    1. It's so freeing and such a wonderful way of being in the moment and then able to recall that moment brilliantly later on. My friend's weekend course makes a great introduction!

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  16. oh this makes me soooo happy!!!

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    1. Yes, your teaching making such a difference in the world . . . ;-)

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  17. Oh it sounds like such a perfect week and so restorative to the soul. I think we need to do these things for ourselves sometimes, just pull in and reacquaint ourselves with ourself...

    The watercolor is beautiful too and I am still fascinated by the idea of the illustrated journal. Perhaps someday.

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  18. I can't believe it was two weeks ago, melted away like the snow, that quiet time. But even thinking back on it has a restorative effect, being reminded what slowing down does for one, even if I just recreate the sense in a breath or two.
    What's great about the illustrated journal is the liberation of sketching for oneself. My goals can be so utterly personal and because they are, the judging gaze is foiled or veiled or at least stalled. . . And it's such a different medium for me, and yet an extension of my art appreciation, of my fairly well-developed sense of colour and proportion, of skills I've built in crafts (knitting, embroidery, crochet, etc). Yet somehow I'd walled it off as something I wasn't/couldn't be good at. Telling myself (and others) that I "wasn't artistic" -- That the illustrated journal is for me means that it doesn't matter if I'm not. . . . so I can be if I accidentally am . . .

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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