It’s chilly outside, but the hint of spring on the horizon is intoxicating. I was pruning raspberry canes this morning – I had no idea how to do it so spent several minutes watching ‘how to’ YouTube videos, and I think I managed to trim back the canes without completely destroying all life. As I worked in our little community garden, the warbling of blackbirds and the chattering of starlings surrounded me. I’d been a bit glum recently (despite the promising trends accompanying the increased distribution of vaccines, general worldwide-meltdown fatigue had wormed its way in), and working outside boosted me in exactly the way I needed.
Here’s a snippet of those blackbirds:
It’s been interesting discovering those islands of safety that we all reach for in times of extreme stress or crisis, a bank of delight if you will to draw upon. Some of my anchoring points have been:
Podcasts: Covering environmental and social issues, Green Dreamer has been my podcast of choice. I listen to the roughly forty minute recordings when I’m drawing or cleaning the apartment: I find it engaging and relaxing in equal measure. I don’t always agree with everything being said, but it never fails to interest me. I found one of the recent subjects on food waste particularly thought-provoking. I also like Alistair Humphrey’s Living Adventurously podcast, engaging and fun to listen to.
Books: I’m scared I’ll ‘forget’ how to read a book, it’s so easy to default to reading online (the irony as I write this does not escape me). I’ve been ordering books from the library and buying ones I know will be keepers. I recently finished No Place To Lay One’s Head by Francoise Frenkel, a memoir describing the author’s escape from occupied France during the Second World War. Originally written in 1945, it was rediscovered in a flea market in 2010. Couldn’t put it down. I’ve just begun Leviathan Wakes by James S.A Corey. I grabbed the book after binge-watching The Expanse, which is based on six books from a series of what will ultimately be nine books. John Le Carre’s A Perfect Spy is sitting on the shelf waiting to be read. I discovered Barry Lopez over the last year, how could I have missed him before? Arctic Dreams, Horizon, and also waiting on the shelf: Of Wolves and Men. His prose is poetry. A lovely tribute to Barry Lopez was published in Outside in January.
Drawing: Inspiration has been eluding me lately, but I finally dragged myself to the table and forced a pencil into my hand. I just finished drawing a leaf I picked up on a walk. Leaves are my nemesis, I’m never satisfied with them, so it seemed a good idea to go back to basics and work with graphite; focussing on the form and shading will hopefully help when I try to render the same leaf in coloured pencil.
Cooking: I’m attempting a few different things, it’s good to mix it up. Spaghetti squash instead of regular spaghetti, mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potato. Lentils with fried halloumi cheese on top. That kind of thing. Varied results but fun to try.
Walking: Around the neighbourhood, in a park, on the beach. With or without a home-brewed coffee in hand.
And there’s been some more snow on the mountains recently, perhaps a late-season cross country ski or snowshoe day is in the offing.
Everything seems to take a little more effort to do than usual, but is so worth it.
What are your islands of safety?