I've been back in England for over a week now. Jet-lag has finally diminished, but my intense joy in being home in the Devon hills remains just as strong as ever -- so much so that even the chilly, changeable weather of recent days can't dull my spirits. I've returned to my old practice of beginning each morning in the woods behind the studio, with a notebook and a thermos of coffee close to hand and Tilly the Wonder Dog at my side. (The painting below, by my friend and village neighbor David Wyatt, captures such mornings perfectly...and I should mention that he has many lovely prints for sale, including this one, in his Etsy shop.)
Settling back into my studio, I've been taking blunt stock of the ways that six months of coping with crisis has impacted my working life -- taking a deep breath and facing all of those things that were pushed to the back burner while I was dealing with Scary Life Stuff instead. The length of my "To Do" list is a bit scary in itself, as such lists always are après-crisis -- which is of course precisely the time when, flummoxed by all that you've just been through, what you want is for life to be simple and calm (or else to lie on a hot beach somewhere in the Carribean)...not to have to face the dust and cobwebs covering the negelected life to which you are returning. But as someone who has re-built my life more than once (due to health problems in the past), I know that this small mountain of things I now have to do, although daunting, is actually a very good sign: it's the very last hurdle before normal life resumes. And that's a fine goal indeed.
At least my mountain is made up of largely interesting things: writing and editing work to catch up on, e-book rights and texts to sort out, art commissions to finish for people who have been very, very patient for far too long. I have an Etsy shop to stock up again, a great deal of backed-up correspondence to respond do, and some lovely new projects to plot and plan (which I will tell you more about in due time)...while also finding a proper work/life balance that can support fragile (but strengthening!) health and keep the Muse (and the pooch!) well fed.
I know many of you cope with the same things too: the balancing act that a creative life requires -- balancing work needs and health needs and family needs and the soul's contrary need for both community and solitude. Back around Christmas, I read an article suggesting that the very best gift that one can give to a writer or artist is the precious gift of time...and that's a lovely idea, but I think we also need to be able to give ourselves that gift. For many of us, that means saying shush to the voices (usually inner rather than outer) insisting that others deserve our time more than we do, and that only when everything else is done may we retreat from the world and plunge into our art. Yes, there are times in life when unstinting selflessness is required from each of us...but there are also times when self-fullness (to invent a term that's less loaded than "selfishness") is what is needed most: for our art, for our health (physical and mental), for our vital connection to the landscape around us...and even for those others (children, aging parents, etc.) who depend on us to stay strong and whole.
So here's the path forward for me right now: I am going to be self-full and take some needed time off. Not time off from work, mind you, but the opposite: time to dive deeply into work again -- by taking time off from my Online Life to focus on Life Unplugged.
I'll be back to this blog in approximately two weeks, when I'm a feeling a bit more caught up again, more deeply rooted in the work rhythms of this new season. And when I come back, I'm eager to resume the discussions here that Life Stuff interrupted: more posts in the "Inspiring Women" series; more work-space profiles for the "On Your Desk" series; more sketches and rambles and reading recommendations; more photos of Life in a Devon village, and of a certain bouncy black canine Familiar....
Thank you all for taking the journey with me through the long, rough months of the winter just passed. I look forward to sharing a wildly creative spring and summer with all of you in the Mythic Arts community -- and 'til then, to quote Jane Yolen (as I so often do): "Touch magic, and pass it on."
The bluebells are blooming. It's the season for magic.
Now, what about you? Where does your path lead...?