exquisite. ordinary

exquisite-ordinary-0 exquisite-ordinary-1 exquisite-ordinary-2

two weeks ago  |  i was sitting eating a japanese-style breakfast from the buffet of my hotel room, looking out over tokyo; i was sitting on the tokyo metro, whizzing my way towards a park where i could stretch my legs before meeting up with friends – fernando & family, david, cynthia, daniel – for a quick shopping trip in ginza; there were friends i hadn’t met yet – a second trip to hokkaido still in my future.

today  |  it already feels like lifetimes ago as i return to the exquisitely ordinary: unpacking winter and doing laundry, scrubbing the bath tub, making to-do lists and grocery lists, pulling weeds from the garden,watching the light change as the skies clear, preparing for kiwiburn whilst in a little bit of a jet-lagged fog, contemplating breakfast options whilst thinking about the gorgeous breakfast buffet at our final hotel in hokkaido.

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i’ve been thinking a lot recently about barefoot mapping – a term that briony penn introduced me to at the DO lectures in 2013 when a group of us created our own barefoot map of an area at Campovida.

before i met her, it’s something i’d been thinking about myself since beginning to travel and experience new places; not specifically with any kind of ecological agenda, more one of wondering if we ever truly know a place. people i know travel more than their parents and i now have friends all over the globe that i have met through our travels too. i love the experience of visiting new places and seeing new things, though i am also a firm believer that adventure doesn’t necessarily mean a trip to tokyo, or vancouver, or iceland, or anywhere else – adventure can be found in our very backyards and neighbourhoods if we make the time to seek it out.

how many of us have spent more time visiting places — or making photographs of — what we perceive as exotic and/or interesting and very little time documenting the truth of our immediate surroundings? i certainly am guilty of it.

the one camera, one lens project i undertook towards the end of last year was a way that i could map some of our own exquisitely ordinary story. a way to record small moments that make up the truth of my life.

and, whilst i will continue to travel and explore the world as much as i can, the mapping that i do of the days in-between the adventures, will continue to become closer-to-home adventures of their own.

Love says ‘I am everything.’ Wisdom says ‘I am nothing.’ Between the two, my life flows.
― Nisargadatta Maharaj, from I Am That

status anxiety

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self-portrait, yesterday

swirling thoughts, little remnants from slumber, waking early, with a head full of to-do’s and what-if’s – all of these things feeding into my current status anxiety.

sas wrote beautifully about sacred responsibility recently; about all the tiny choices she made that have got her to where she is now. her eloquence, vulnerability and willingness to be honest with herself are little lights that comfort me and whisper “keep going”.

though i know this is right where i need to be and that my own little tiny choices have led me to here, there’s still a bit of niggling anxiety:

i have been known to give up on things when they get “too hard”, to run away and hide rather than making friends with my fears. even if there will be times i want to give up, it feels like it really is time to embrace my own conscious choice; to stay open, and saying yes, to what is next.

and, with friends like Sas and Lisa lighting the way, it makes me braver and more willing to.

i am winded, unsure,
and willing.
lisa field-elliot

on letting go (a confession)

over the years i’ve participated in, and witnessed, a lot of different releasing rituals. i’ve written (and then burned) words & pages, wrapped my intentions in red cloth, held private ceremonies for myself. and i’ve come to realise there’s a lot of power in doing this.

the first few times i did it, i was more than a little uncomfortable…
+ what if i do it wrong?
+ does this conflict with my ideas about spirituality?
+ what if this is just some kooky thing and all a waste of time?
+ does this actually work?!?

…but i kept on turning up, taking part in ceremony, creating my own, all in safe and loving environments. and i felt lighter and lighter, more able to feel joy because there was less of the self-limiting stuff weighing me down.

i now think about these things i carry as being similar to travelling the world picking up trinkets and souvenirs. with each acquisition i’m dragging more and more items, in more and more suitcases, behind me. after a while this gets tiresome and expensive! these thoughts and feelings, like luggage, become so cumbersome that i have to either let go, or suffocate underneath the weight of them all (*).

letting go of the thoughts and feelings that no are longer serving me has now become an essential and necessary part of my life.

polaroid sx-70, impossible project px100 silvershad film. birds in flight. copyright leonie wise

You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.
― Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

fast forward to this year

my thoughts keep turning, and returning, to one thread: a feeling of disconnect.
i am thrashing in my journal pages and they’re filled with lines and lines of dialogue that go something like this:

+ why can s/he {insert do that magical unexplainable, universe-y thing here} but i can’t?
+ how come someone saw the greatness of the universe when she was working with me and i didn’t notice?
+ why can i not feel any connection to you, spirit, the world around me right now?
+ how do i get that feeling back?
+ was it even real?
+ what the hell is wrong with me?!
+ is there even anyone there?
+ give me some proof that something greater than me exists!

these questions and [very melodramatic] thoughts plague my writing, waking hours and dreams. i wake, most mornings, with the feeling that i was about to finally come up with the answer for the questions i have been asking, feeling deeply frustrated that i woke just before they came.

Searching for that big happy moment in life, how many special little moments will we let pass us by?
―  Anonymous

i wonder if i’m trying too hard
and agonising too much
and missing moments of divinity because of it.

i wonder if my thrashing about
making all kinds of racket in my head
is causing half the problem.

perhaps if i loosened my grip
stepped back into the flow
i’d find a peaceful way back to the truth.

You carry within you the wisdom of the ages
―   My higher self

so, this year, in this moment, i am choosing to let go of the way i have separated myself from you and from the divine

i am choosing to let go of the frantic grasping at answers, the belief that there’s a divine secret that’s been whispered in everyone’s ear but mine, the feeling that I’m an afterthought – separate from spirit (and you), and the idea that i’m missing some simple understanding of how and what connects us.

i embrace the possibility that the feeling of separation is one of my own doing.

i embrace the possibility that it is the stories i have been telling myself that are keeping me from remembering that our connection exists, and has always existed.

i know it’s time for this to stop.

Some of us think holding on makes us strong but sometimes it is letting go.
― Hermann Hesse

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i confess that putting all of this here is more than a little frightening. it means i am making myself vulnerable and showing you a part of me that i have carefully kept hidden for so long. i thought about choosing something else to share that i am letting go of this year – something not so scary to admit – but that doesn’t help me let go. not one little bit.

i also confess that i don’t have a word for the year. it somehow feels like i would be limiting myself if i choose only one. i want this year to be wide open to the possibility that anything could happen and choosing just one word simply won’t do. so i’ve also let go of the idea that to not have a word (or to not have been able to narrow it down to just one) makes me wrong in any way.

what is it you’d like to let go of today/this month/this year?

will you join us in letting go?

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letitgo_badge

This post is part of the Let it Go Project: a collection of stories leading up to a beautiful releasing ritual, hosted by Sas Petherick on the 30th of January. All the details for this free event are here. And you can take part! Be inspired by other posts in this project, and share what you are ready to let of of on the Let it Go Project Community Page!

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(*) another thing i’m learning is not to collect them in the first place

in the end there’s only love

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The UK is experiencing some deliciously hot weather at the moment and we are trying to make the most of it. So, Nic and I took the day off work and went to the beach yesterday.

Three people we know have died in the past 6 months – all from various forms of aggressive cancer: On Monday, we attended the funeral of one of them.

She was younger than me and had recently met her soulmate… they never made it to their wedding day.
The goodbyes during the service from her friends and family were beautiful – funny, moving, full of love for her.

I sat there during the service thinking about how life distills down to a final goodbye: A few funny anecdotes, some photographs, a facebook profile, the memories that live on in the people that knew them. I was thinking about how, perhaps too often, we leave it too late to tell people how we feel about them… so late that perhaps we only ever speak of how we feel when they’re gone.

This death of my colleague, someone who was funny, and smart, and curious, and messy, and delighted by everything, has given me a reality check. It’s got me really thinking about what matters.

We took the day off work and went to the beach yesterday; and (instead of worrying about how big my ass looked in my swimsuit, or what anyone might think of my white legs or my wobbly arms) I delighted in being alive, and able to share these moments with my husband.

Some of the things from yesterday that I will always remember:

  • how the warm sun felt on my face,
  • the intoxicating smells of warm grass and salt water,
  • how beautiful the ocean water felt on my skin,
  • how Nic made me laugh,
  • how delicious a glass of water tastes on a hot day,
  • how grateful I am for my friends, my family, my husband.

I won’t remember feeling like I’m ‘not good enough’, or my ass was too big to be wearing a swimsuit in public. I didn’t get stuck in my head thinking about something someone did years ago that hurt me. Because, to me, those things didn’t matter.

The way I see it, there really are only two moments: There is now and there is later.

And, because there may not be a later for me, or for anyone, it’s important that I make every one of my nows the most incredible and precious moment.

+ There really isn’t any time for fear, or anger, or worrying about the shape of my body (after all I chose it, so it must have been for a bloody good reason).
+ There’s no time for dwelling on the past, or worrying about things that might never happen.
+ There’s no time for someday, or maybe, or “if only I’d tried”.
+ There’s no time for blaming anyone for the stories I create about my life and what has happened in my past.
+ There’s no time for hating my commute, or my job, or the place where I live.

There is time for love,
for laughter,
for giving everything I want to try a go, even if it doesn’t work out.

There is time for wonder,
and curiosity,
and exploration.

There is time for my family and friends,
for listening,
for paying attention,
for skipping if I feel like it (even though I’m 40 years old and someone watching might think I’m silly).

There is time for making this now, and this now, and this now full of magic.
There is time for feeling all of it.
For living the length, breadth and depth of life. For seizing it all with wide open arms and a loving heart, even the bits that were previously full of hurt.

What are you waiting for to really live your now?
(It’s okay, you can do this)

Me?
I’m not waiting any more.

 

the hermit • heart islands • the fool

buddha statue amongst green trees

☙ the hermit

We need to find forums in which we can delve deeper than the often facile exchanges over Twitter, or the sprawling comment threads on a blog , which rarely reach the levels of criticality one can easily achieve in something as simple as an everyday conversation.
– from Designing the Mind by The Standardistas. The Manual – Issue #1

I have been quietly retreating from various parts of the online world. Since January 1st I have deleted over 20 social media and online accounts and I’m still going.

I thought I would miss them a lot more than I do. Instead, I find the spaces I freed up being filled with heart conversations, real life interactions and deepening friendships outside of social media channels. I’m doing more of less things. I’ve opened a wee shop and people are buying stuff. Thank-you people, thank-you.

☙ heart islands

I was watching a video of Martha Beck speaking at O You 2012 recently. At about the 14 minute mark she starts talking about taking her armour off. Right after that, she shares a story of being at The Tower of London with her son Adam and of him remembering being there in 1658.

Further conversation leads her to ask him the following question: “Did you wear armour?

His answer: “Armour limits my consciousness.

Every single cell in me responded to this. Because all of me knows this to be true.

And I realised that I hadn’t just been in a hermitage phase since the beginning of the year, I’d also been putting my armour back on.

I had felt it a while back when we were having lunch with friends; like I was holding something back… I couldn’t trust them with anything more than light conversation about holidays and dog names – I had been feeling like, if I just turn up as myself, that it wouldn’t be enough. Because I felt like a failure and some part of their story was triggering my failure story to play in my head on repeat.

I woke up after a dream with the words “Heart Islands” reverberating through me, and with this the realisation that I have been keeping things separate: Some of you with others of you; you separate from me; parts of me separate from other parts of myself.

Something shifted once I knew this and it feels like a space has opened up around me that is clearer than ever before.

No story is written alone, not even mine.

☙ the fool

A friend of mine is pouring his visual voice in to a heart project and I know it will be beautiful in a way that is his and only his. He says, in a short note to people who pre-order his book, that “it’s not easy being an artist, but it’s not always any easier being the audience of the artist.” This got me thinking this morning about how being the audience of other artists can be difficult for me – leading me into deep questioning of my own abilities as an artist…

“Who am I doing this for?”

“Will I ever be any good?”

“Is this my vision, or am I trying to mimic someone else?”

“Am I ever going to get to the point where I am willing to take a really big chance on myself and just go for it?”

At a recent creativity workshop I received a very clear message: Back to the beginning

For me, this means back to when being an artist was joyful, playful, without expectations. I took this phrase with me to Japan – taking everything I knew about the world & photography with me, whilst also a feeling of starting again… learning as much as I could… about what it is to be in this world… what it is like to be able to see and converse with people and landscapes.

For me, this also means supporting you in your artistic endeavours without ever feeling like they are threat to my own. Because they really aren’t.

My internal landscapes have altered in nameless ways and my external horizons have shifted. It feels like a beginning.

I have, in some ways, become The Fool: back at the beginning of something and nearing the end of something else, I am of neither and otherwise, betwixt and between.

 

show your hair

please wait here until you are useful, thank you

My grandmother told me,
“Never hide your green hair –
They can see it anyway.”
Angeles Arrien

There are stories I have told myself for years: That I am not good enough – That I am not worth listening to – That I don’t get it (and everyone else does) – That I am a fraud – I am weird looking – My ankles are too fat and my legs are unshapely – I am not at all glamorous and I hate wearing heels, so I must be a freak – My hair is too fine and not curly enough – I am fat – I am ashamed of my body – of my actions – of my failure to save another because I wasn’t brave enough to speak.

And, for [too] many years the question I most often asked myself was “What is wrong with me?”.
And, for [too] many years I answered it with many things; none of them an answer filled with love, only with more pain.

You are not alone,
wondering who will be convicted of the crime
of insisting you keep loading your grief
into the chamber of your shame.
You are not weak just because your heart feels so heavy.
I have never met a heavy heart
that wasn’t a phone booth with a red cape inside.
Some people will never understand
the kind of superpower it takes
for some people to just walk outside.
Andrea Gibson, (from The Nutritionist)

There were days when the stories I told myself were so damaging that the thought of getting out of bed was too much, let alone getting dressed or taking a walk outside.

Somewhere between my wild, untamed girlhood and now, I lost a very important conversation with myself:

One in which I understood that it’s not the things that happen to me that matter, it’s all the stories I have told myself afterwards – I have punished myself through various means for failing to live up to some perfection that I can’t name or understand.

I’m certain that some of you will agree with me when I say…
… it’s easy to write about how the stories we tell ourselves are important, so to be careful what they are,
… and it’s easy to speak the words,
… but to truly believe them on a cellular level… that is where the magic happens.

I have been too close to the stories to see that they are ONLY stories.

Deepak Chopra, in one of his books, says when we look at our bodies now, they are a physical manifestation of the things we have told ourselves in the past. And, if we want to know what our bodies will look like in the future, we need to examine the stories we tell ourselves now.

I realise, as I read through what I have written above, that trying to hide from the world by over-eating and drinking and ending up in an overweight body was a hilarious plan. How on earth getting bigger equates to hiding is something I now find funny. At the time I made that decision it must have been the best plan I could come up with.

In this realisation, and writing these words, I burst into laughter, then the tears start; I am glad I find my realisation so funny now, and I’m sad to have wasted so much time trying to hide that way.

And I can feel a deep wound begin to heal.

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The words of Byron Katie present themselves in my mind frequently. She gently asks

Who would you be without your story?

Who would I be without the story that I’m not good enough,
that I don’t belong here,
that I’m not worth listening to so I might as well keep quiet?

Who would I be if I emerged, every day, from my phone booth wearing my red cape and showing my green hair?

It seems that, despite all of the various punishments and shame, some part of me has the wisdom to look underneath all the bullshit stories I tell myself – the ones made from the pain of past experiences. Somehow some part of me knows that I am not broken…

There is nothing to ‘fix’, nothing to do.
I just have to BE.
That my BEing is enough
and it is beautiful.

Who would you be without your story?

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the body stories badgeAs part of her amazing new site & business launch, my friend Sas is sharing an ebook called the body stories.

I was deeply honoured to be invited to share some of my body story, along with many, many others.

Maybe a story contained within it will speak deeply to you, where you are in your body story.

This ebook is her gift to you and you can download it from here

dude


David duChemin is a really awesome dude.

Not very long ago (I’m a slow learner) I realised that, if I want my photography to improve, I need to hang out with people whose work I admire. I was stuck. Wanting to be ‘better’ (whatever the hell that means) and knowing that a way I could help myself do that was to find people that could help me out.

Enter Within the Frame (WTF*), the Craft & Vision books and David duChemin. I’ve been a fan of his work for quite some time, following his blog, leaving random comments and cheering him on as he recovers from a serious fall. I seriously believe this dude has magical powers.

As well as being smart, funny and fun to be around, this dude is kind. David pushed me to ask people if I could photograph them (which I totally needed)… He sat patiently, listening as I had a number of meltdowns, then offered me some honest feedback and advice… He offered me the use of his camera and gave me an introduction to how tilt-shift lenses actually work…

And he sat and let me photograph him.
It was truly an amazing gift.

More than once on the trip I was brought to my knees – sometimes with a camera in my hands, sometimes simply grateful for not being dumb enough to cancel my ticket.

Now, after being back for just over a week, I find my digital darkroom skills lacking. But I hope you get a sense of how much this guy means to me when you see these images.

* I did tell you this dude is funny.

no right turn

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Sometimes this happens to me…

Sometimes it really feels like I haven’t made a right turn in ages.

Everything feels wrong.

I feel lost, confused, frustrated… angry, stressed and shouty, or I retreat.

I *think* I’m getting better at stopping myself, but my road is far from being without the odd diversion, crash (thankfully never fatal) or wrong turn.

There are clear warning signs when the road is not the one I’m meant to be on, but sometimes I’m so busy going places that I don’t notice immediately. In fact, my secret shame (or one of them at least), is that I’m so bloody stubborn and pig-headed that it takes me a while to admit that i took a wrong turn, and to get back on my path.

Things that tell me it’s not the right turn (for me) include;

  • comparing what I’m doing to what someone else is doing
  • then thinking that the way I’m doing it is shi*t
  • contemplating quitting at this point
  • being unable to feel any joy for anyone else’s success
  • questioning my sanity
  • thinking that nothing I do will ever be good enough
  • forgetting that sometimes I have something worth saying too
  • being spiteful, truculent, or downright mean

I’m not suggesting your list would be the same, but let’s have a show of hands if you’ve caught yourself in crazy land too. I promise no-one else can see you raise your hand… Your secrets are safe with me.

How do I get myself out of this crazy land and back on the right road for me? Most often it begins with me admitting I was wrong. Very often this will also include a few apologies to those around me who I’ve sucked into my vortex and involved in my drama.

Then, there’s usually a cooling-off period. A re-grounding if you will. This usually involves water, quiet, bare feet, sleep, tearing things out of magazines and catalogues to glue into my latest journal. You know… Things that get me out of my crazy mind and back into that place in me that knows what I’m meant to be doing (even when the rest of me doesn’t).

It’s a turn back on to the road where, when part of me is saying “are you crazy?!?”, the rest of me is saying YES, and that’s just how it’s meant to be.

guardian of the sacred crayons


apparently i have a ‘smudging face’. a look and poise not used at any other time in my life than when i smudge the house, or temple, or retreat. i have no idea where this face comes from. or why there is a shift in my persona when i wander through the rooms, wafting smoke into the corners and corridors. perhaps it is simply a costume i don in order to meet the sacred. whatever the reason, whenever i do it now, i am reminded of my friend merle, who noticed this face and laughingly (lovingly) pointed it out. i wonder what other faces i have that i’ve simply not noticed.

i get weird sentences arriving in my head at random moments. like the one used as the title of this post. i mean WTF?

it is quiet here. well, mostly. the light is steely grey, bringing a softness to the sky. moss-covered rooves1 and the proximity of trees are perfect for quieting my restlessness and quelling any sense of urgency or need to be anywhere but here.


this is the view from where i currently sit. peaceful, despite the close proximity of my neighbours. the smell of sweet vanilla cinnamon fills the room, lit to signify the beginning of some creative time. whatever shows up. i am here.


i’ve had two strong cups of coffee this morning and am contemplating a third. thinking about where the public footpath is that leads to the river; whether or not i go out for supper, or stay here in my quiet cocoon. i have fallen in love with cabin number 27 and it’s faded blue rose-patterned curtains and dishevelled look. but there are always gutters to clean, drains to unblock, repairs. better to let someone else own it and simply enjoy the visit. part of me aches for a physical space to be my home. somewhere filled with my natural eclectic style. comfy daybeds and sofas, a shiny espresso machine, thick cotton sheets and a view over the ocean.

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it seems i am drawn to the dishevelled. perhaps it’s because i am. though it is intentional with me.

two of the welsh men i’ve spoken with today have asked about the riots. each with their own ideas of what the punishment should be for the perpetrators. i am simply thankful that no-one i know was affected.

today i’ve also had lunch and a cuppa with a DOer. he was just how i’d imagined him to be, even though i really hadn’t spent much time thinking about what he’d be like. he is interesting and interested. fingers in many pies. multiple projects on the go. he speaks with passion and about passion. we chat about the DO lectures2, cardigan, howies, fforest camp, his new projects and about what it is to do one thing and do it well. i meet his wife, am helped put two and two together and realise that her nana was the source of my favourite welsh cake recipe.

i am drawn to people who look ordinary and who are, in their own quiet ways, changing the world. i hope i am doing this too.

  1. this is not a typo. rooves is the NZ’ers plural for roof.
  2. if you haven’t heard of the DO lectures before go check it out. i’ve been a fan since i heard andrew whitley talking about why bread needs time. all the speakers from the previous years are available to watch on the site for free. fascinating. seriously.