January, Just January
I usually love January for its empty spaciousness. After the December focus on Christmas, I delight in the empty calendar and the resulting opportunity for making and renewal. This January has been very much tempered by the second wave and the third lockdown and I know that everyone is feeling it. My house is very full at the moment with home-school, home-university and even some home-medicine. The space available to Pippa and I has seriously diminished so we are often to be found in the kitchen or the playroom, keeping out of everyone’s way but being on hand when they need us!
I think that everyone is clinging onto things that bring them comfort and it was with great delight that I learned of the return of the Great Pottery Throw Down series 4! It is a gem of a programme. Amateur potters complete a series of challenges in the spirit of GBBO and the Sewing Bee. But this programme has a gentleness of spirit that sets it apart. The process is slow and items are made in stages over the programme and there is a real spirit of friendliness and compassion. I think this radiates from the main judge Keith Brymer-Jones who is such an emotional person. I am reminded of when Otto and I bumped into him and then judge Kate Malone in the car park of Art in Action at Waterperry Gardens in Oxford. Otto was much younger then (sorry Otto!) and we stopped and asked if we could take a photo. They were so wonderfully kind and made a real fuss.
I am delighted this year to be able to use my new ‘Almanac- A Seasonal Guide to 2021’, by Lia Leendertz. It’s a little book full of information about the coming year: Moon phases (yay!), sunrises and sunsets, tide timetables and the sky at night, alongside recipes and gardening tips, folklore, nature and a song for each month. Right up my alley!
As ever, hearing from you guys really makes me happy. Friend of ANOGM, Stella sent me this beautiful picture of her local playground. I think it really shows how there is beauty everywhere if you look. Thanks Stella!
Last week I happened upon a wonderful art project by Lever Arts https://www.leverarts.org who are a Birmingham based organisation run by Gillian and Jake Lever. They have a beautiful project called ‘Do the Little Things’, where during the pandemic Jake found that he wanted to connect with people he cared about, but was sometimes lost for words. So he started to make small golden boats which he sent to people as a silent, wordless communication.
He has now opened this up to us all and you can buy a boat and send it to a loved one. There are also a number of ‘free boats’ for folk on low incomes. The boat arrives beautifully wrapped and all you have to do is change the address and put your own message inside, and a new stamp on the outside. Ultimately, if participants wish, their boat’s journey can be included anonymously as a gilded line on a map that Jake will make into a large scale artwork. What’s not to love?? I have sent a boat to my best friend at medical school who is a GP in the wilds of Northumberland in the north of the UK. It arrived today on her birthday and she was very happy to receive it.
Of course there has still been making and I find handling wool and wood so relaxing. My looms are as much a thing of beauty as they are of function.
I have been weaving scarves and blankets in spare moments. And believe me, they are snatched moments rather than vast expanses of time. I am realising that for now, that is the best it will be and I just have to take whatever moment I can. In fact that is how I do most things- in between all the other things that home and family and work involve. But if I want to do the things I love, I need to take all the small opportunities, so that overall I can lead a happy and balanced life. And sometimes say no to things that do not lead towards my ultimate goals or ‘purpose’. More on that from Kate!
So I am delighted to say that I have finally opened a little online shop! Hoorah! It is found on Folksy https://folksy.com/shops/ANestofGentleMakers
You can find some handwoven blankets there and also some visible mending sewing kits that started life at the ANOGM retreats in 2019. I am so delighted to share them with you!
And so, to some words from Kate:
I sincerely hope that this January Musings finds you healthy and as unscathed as possible from this challenging pandemic
This month I find myself in reflective mode, perhaps because January invites a sense of ’new-ness’. I have a whole pile of magazines waiting for me to spend an afternoon creating a mood board to pin up above my desk as a reminder of what I want to achieve this year. Meanwhile, I am happy to report, mood board or no mood board, the clarity is forming – perhaps the pile of magazines is enough!
I adore quotes, a great quote has the ability to hone the thoughts and convey in a few words what might otherwise take reams
This one from Dr Seuss feels apt for January
“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”
The past year has been challenging on so many levels hasn’t it?! – but perhaps also very re-grounding, re-connecting, and re-affirming?
Some of us are busier than ever, ‘doing what we do’
Some of us have had the opportunity to ‘do what we do’ taken away entirely – what do we do now?
Some of us have re-trained or volunteered in order to be able to ‘do something useful and helpful’
What’s been highlighted for me, is that no matter how old or young, ambitious or chilled we are, we humans need a purpose. In yoga we call this Dharma,
The Implication of dharma is that there is a right or true way for each person to carry out their life in order to serve both themselves and others, it is said that all beings must accept their dharma for order and harmony to exist in the world. If someone is following their dharma, they are pursuing their truest calling, and serving all other beings in the universe by playing their truest role.
The wonderful thing about this description (for me) is that it invites me to believe that we all have a role in this enormous play of life, we just need to stop fighting the internal battles that might direct us differently, listen to the truest part of ourselves and follow the path – I find that empowering and liberating
I truly believe we all know our dharma, or life purpose, but somewhere along the path, our clarity can become fuzzy
This is where my little story turns to the Japanese island of Okinawa, where the concept of ‘Ikigai’ was born.
Your Ikigai is your purpose. To discover your Ikigai you need to find the cross section of ’the things you like to do’, ’the things you are good at’, ‘what the world needs’ and ‘what you can get paid to do’ (if this aspect is important or necessary) – at this cross section your ikigai or dharma will reveal itself to you. Simple! Not necessarily easy, but simple.
Perhaps you are already fortunate enough to have wonderful, crystallised clarity where your ikigai or dharma is concerned? But if not, I would invite you to give yourself an hour or so with a cup of coffee, some coloured pens and a big sheet of paper – have a play and see what is revealed to you. If you need some help with this, just give me a shout.
That’s it from me for this month beautiful souls, I will leave you with a quote from one of my favourite authors, Mark Twain who always seems to have the right words;
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why”
Sending you love, light, happiness and truth
This wraps up January’s musings. I know it’s a bit of a read but that is the point. To stop, take a moment and have a read through and hopefully find some inspiration. Please keep on letting me know how you are, or sending me photos of what you have been up to. It seriously makes this all so worth it. I will be back for the next full moon in February with (hopefully!) news of our retreat in June. And maybe some news of an exciting new retreat later in the year……..
With much love and thanks,
P.S: Kate has just been in touch to tell me that she is starting up a Friday late afternoon Restorative Yoga with Yoga Nidra (deep active rest) session. 5-6 pm. These are recorded classes so if you sign up you can take part in the class and then use it in your own time. Contact Kate directly @gingertonic to book. I am hoping to take part in the next few weeks……