Dry

Spring Break Report

May 20, 2019

Zzzzzzzzzz...

My spring break was boring. In a good way.

I was so tired. Physically, mentally, emotionally. I went blueberry picking. I slept. I read. I took my vitamins every day. I puttered in my house, getting rid of things and putting small messes in order. I visited Tank (who, apparently, is tired, too—see above).

I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose. After big strides in productivity last year, a once-in-a-lifetime three-week trip to France, followed immediately by sickness and upheaval in my personal life, and trying to keep up and catch up with everything at the same time, I was due for break, if not a breakdown.

While I’ve been keeping up (as well as “keeping up appearances”) as best I can, I have rarely felt so “dry” as a writer. Writing feels like squeezing a lime—a whole lot of effort for a trickle of juice. Understandably, this has made me very unhappy, as writing has always been a solace as well as a way to contribute to our finances. Hoping for inspiration, I’ve been revisiting my favorite writing books, and participating in the shewrites.com #whyshewrites challenge on Instagram.

Despite this dry spell, I do still have the desire to write, so I’m adjusting and readjusting the balance of work and rest—of creative output and creative input, what I call well refilling. I had not been allowing myself enough simple noodling time—time spent letting my thoughts drift and dream. Some of my best ideas come that way, and this is probably at least partly why I’ve been feeling so parched. While I believe in the Maya Angelou quote I posted Friday, I also believe that creativity needs nurturing, and I have not been doing enough of that. 

You’d think I would understand the need for creative rejuvenation by now, but we don’t learn our lessons all at once and for good. We learn, we forget, we remember, we learn more, we learn deeper, hopefully on a continued upward spiral. 

What do you do (or stop doing) when you’re in need of rejuvenation, creative or otherwise?

Busy-ness

Spring Rerun--What's the Rush?

May 13, 2019


I’m still on my own personal spring break right now, doing my best to rest and slow down. Here is a post from 2014 that shows this is an ongoing issue for me. Maybe for you, too?

“Slowness is an option for everyone on the planet, not just a privilege reserved for the very wise or very young or very rich. All of us can decide (and the phrase is a potent one)
to take our time.”
—Christian McEwen, World Enough and Time

For the past few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with deliberately slowing down my actions. I’ve been surprised by how many times I catch myself rushing, as opposed to simply moving efficiently and deliberately. When I take the dog’s medications out of the cupboard, when I get out of the car to go inside, when I unload the dishwasher—I feel an internal push to hurry. (Gretchen Rubin describes this feeling perfectly in Happier at Home: “I always have the feeling that I should be working. I always feel pressed for time, as if someone were shoving a pistol in my back and muttering ‘Move, move, move!’”) I’m already aware that when I hurry I break things and hurt myself, and I really don’t need to hurry every minute of every day, so what gives?

It’s at least partly the familiar and eternal battle between doing and being. No matter how hard I try, it seems that I can’t shake the feeling that if I’m not doing something (or hurrying on to the next something) then I’m not worthy. No matter how much I streamline my do-do list, there’s always more to do than I’ll ever be able to accomplish. Hurry has become a habit. One I’m determined to break.

Even with my new focus on not hurrying, and even though I’ve written several blog posts about the concepts of doing less and slowing down (see “Do Less in More Time” and “One Less Thing,” for example), I still struggle to follow my own advice. Take last Thursday. First, while driving home from the grocery store, I stopped too quickly at a stop sign, spilling my coffee into the cup holder and down the center console. After I cleaned that up and got the groceries unloaded, instead of just chilling for a few minutes, I got caught up on the computer and was late leaving for yoga class. I barely had time to take off my shoes, drop my keys and roll out my mat before it started. I felt flustered, distracted and off balance for at least half the class and the quality of my poses suffered. After lunch, while on the way to run an errand with no timetable, I realized I had a death grip on the steering wheel as I tried to hit every traffic light just right.

Slow down there, girl.

After that, I started reminding myself of a principle Natural Horsemanship practitioner Pat Parelli often refers to: Go slower to go faster. Here’s an example in action: that five seconds I saved by hurrying to go in the house is more than eaten up by the time it takes me to retrieve the mail from beneath the car where I just dropped it. If I’d taken my time in the first place, I’d already be inside (in the air conditioning) rather than crawling on the floor of the garage.  

When I remember to slow down, time does seem to lengthen. I’m able to move more smoothly from one thing to another without feeling internal pressure goading me on. So I’ll continue to pay attention to the speed at which I move. Keep saying no to busy work and rushing. Value the time and space between activities as much as the activities themselves. Seek out activities with a slower pace. And I’ll keep working on taking my time.

What makes you feel rushed? How do you slow down?

No rushing allowed

Creativity

Interesting Things May Develop

May 10, 2019


“Creativity is an awful lot like sex. If it always has to be great, that creates a certain amount of performance anxiety. If, instead, you experiment a little, even when you’re not in the mood and don’t have time for a long candlelight dinner with your muse, interesting things may start to develop. You are married to your creativity, not just out on a first date.”
—Julia Cameron, The Vein of Gold

Artist's dates

Spring Rerun--Picking Blueberries: An Artist's Date

May 06, 2019

I’m on my own personal spring break right now, which included a blueberry-picking excursion yesterday. So I dusted off this post from 2015, a throwback to the first time I went blueberry picking (it took me a shockingly long time to fill my bucket—I’ve improved my average quite a bit since then, even with stopping to take pictures and pick a few unripe berries to paint later, as one does.)

A few minutes from my house, and just down the road from where I keep Tank, there is a blueberry farm that is now open for U-picking. After several weeks of unseasonably hot and humid weather, this weekend was fresh and spring like—the sun shining from a cobalt sky dotted with cottony clouds, so I decided to go blueberry picking for the first time. Here’s what happened:

Acres of blueberry bushes

After I park my car, the farm proprietor ties a white plastic bucket around my waist and tells me which sections were picked for market and which should have berries left. I walk down the grassy road between berry sections and choose my spot. There are other pickers scattered through the rows, a few with children in tow. U-picking with kids is popular, and this is one of the first weekends the farm is open. I see several generations of family members, from grandparents to toddlers, enjoying the experience.

And that’s why I’m here: to enjoy the experience. This is an artist’s date as well as a way to stock my freezer with fresh blueberries.

Once I choose my section, I begin slowly walking between the rows of shoulder- to head-high blueberry bushes. It takes me a few moments for my eyes to adjust to seeing the plump purple berries hidden in the foliage. I drop my first berries in my bucket with a thunk. While I search with my eyes, my ears listen to the sounds around me: the breeze flirting with berry bushes, the lady in the red t-shirt humming along with her iPod, the children calling out excitedly, and even the loud speakers periodically blaring screechy bird sounds to keep away other birds who would eat the berries. My mind is free to wander, but I find it mostly stays quiet, absorbed in the task of looking carefully for the ripe berries. I deliberately pick a few unripe berries to paint because they’re such pretty colors. I also remember and use Laure Ferlita’s advice to look up, look down, look all around.



As in life, in blueberry picking, it pays to go slowly, look carefully, and be gentle (so the fruit doesn’t fall on the ground instead of into your fingers). You need to look at the bushes from several different angles, and sometimes you will find perfect berries missed by others who have worked the same row. This is sort of like the process of creativity—good ideas, ripe for the picking are out there, waiting for the right person to come along.

It takes me about two hours to fill my bucket. I probably could have moved to a section with more berries per bush, but for once I’m not in a hurry. It is a pleasure to be doing one thing and one thing only. Once my bucket is full, I return to the entrance, pay my money, and carry a plastic grocery bag to my car filled with my bounty.


When I get home, I’ll have the work of drying out the berries (they don’t like to be wet), freezing them, and deciding what I want to do with the ones I won’t freeze. Blueberry muffins for my son, and lemon blueberry scones for me, I think.

This artist’s date was a huge success. I not only deeply enjoyed it while it was happening, but I also wrote about it in my journal and in this post, and I painted those berries! So far, I’ve only experimented with different colors for the berries, but I also want to do a full watercolor sketch page of various elements from the day.

What did you do this weekend?


Look for my travel writing here