If you're on my mailing list you will know that at the very last minute the hysterectomy I talked about in my last post was cancelled which was a big blow as I'd planned my time off so intricately. I decided I would take January off anyway as I was utterly exhausted and needed a rest for rests sake. It's been so nice and feels like it was exactly what I needed.
I had a big fiftieth-shaped birthday too at the end of December. I wanted to tell you so that I could show you the beautiful present Dean commissioned for me. You know I lost my ‘notice’ board made by Vinegar & Brown Paper in the fire and I was so sad? Well Dean found a way to replace it, to surpass it even. I felt so bleak and low in December about work and the studio and everything and this special gift, thought up especially for me, restored my hope in an instant!
I have found my rest in reading, writing, walking, drawing, napping and nidra, in lighting a candle, snuggling under a blanket with Willow, watching the weather, the trees and the birds and sinking into the peace that can be found quite easily in my new living room. I’ve been enjoying walks alone and with friends and their dogs from this new position in the landscape, finding new paths, new loops and learning where the light falls from this orientation, all the while trying to take it slowly.
My surgery has been rescheduled for the 27th March and I’m happy with that now. The new date granted us a little more time to decorate the living room and schedule some other important jobs around the place before I’m unable to lift things for a while. The house feels so much better and the house that is my body feels better too. Decorating has been good practice for doing things in a restful way too - not trying to achieve too much in a day, taking proper breaks and wrapping up early so there’s still energy left afterwards and I realised that rest feels much better when it leans against some kind of action. It's the yin and the yang all snuggled together creating a beautiful whole.
I have ordered Chestnut wallpaper by Marthe Armitage, a wallpaper heroine of mine. I couldn't afford her hand printed paper that she still prints herself on her amazing lino press in her late eighties but I have splashed out on some of her digitally printed paper. I am so excited. I’ll show you when it’s on the wall. The floors are being stripped next week which will change things a lot too.
I have snuggled down and read so much, as well as listened to podcasts and audiobooks as I prepped and painted walls. Some of these books I have devoured, some I am dipping in and out of. I have declared this ‘my year of rest and relaxation’. If you’ve read this novel, don’t worry I won’t be popping lots of pills so I can sleep for months, no I’ll just be leaving a little more space around things so that there is more time for rest.
In the middle of January I had a panic that the month was running out too fast and I didn’t feel better enough yet and I would never be ready to go back to work and do all the things and had to and wanted to do. My friend came to my rescue with a book called ‘I didn’t do the thing today’ by Madeleine Dore. It is so brilliant and looks at routines, busyness, time, balance, ambition, rest, discipline, comparison, distraction, perfection and all the things that can cause trouble in the mind of the creative practitioner! It was just the tonic I needed. It gave me new ways of measuring my days and so much inspiration about how to move forwards in new and more gentle ways. Its nuggets of wisdom have been accompanying me ever since.
After not being able to do much creative work for a few months I have a strong desire for a period of focused attention. I have noted how much I love to read about writing and learn about how other people go about it and I am lucky to have been gifted two books about writing from writer friends Bec Evans who co wrote Written with her partner Chris Smith and Beth Kempton who wrote The Art of the Fearless Writer both of which have helped me to step into the practice of writing my second ‘something I have noticed’ journal as comfortably as sinking into a warm bath. I have been lighting my candle, opening my laptop and telling the stories of how nature helped me through a difficult year. The thought of laying out the journal with its photos and drawings on my big monitor is what has pulled me back to the studio the strongest and I am so excited about it. The process has been really healing for me. I may or may not have it finished before my next surgery date but I'm going to have a go.
One of my readers suggested Josie George’s memoir A Still Life as a book to read in my convalescence. I read the first chapter and wondered if I should save it until after my op but I couldn’t stop reading. She made me cry about twenty times, the way she writes about small moments and about love is astounding. She has given me new wisdom about how to measure the success of our days too.
I have been off social media the whole time too which has been really refreshing and my mind feels more peaceful as a result. I do have a back log of lovely photos that I might have shared though like this beauty of Willow in the upstairs window looking out on the frosty sunrise. It's been quite energising to turn the urge to instantly share photos and experiences into a being-more-present-in-the-moment practice and keep things just for me for a while. It's been another way to conserve my energy and attention. Right now, I'm sitting on the Instagram river bank trying to decide if I want to jump back in. The current is fast and once you're in you're in. Can I just get in and have a gentle swim every now and again? Let's see.
I'd like to take this kind of time of every January as it has been so restorative. I'm really lucky that my business can carry on without me, for a bit at least. Domenique has been amazing and has looked after everything in the studio really well with help from Hannah too. Domenique was thrown in at the deep end really, and all the tricksy complicated things happened at once but they did so well. They will be all the more prepared when I finally do have my operation.
So, a belated happy new year, one month in already, there are snowdrops and crocuses in my new garden and spring is around the corner.