This Sunday, at The Picture House in Exeter:

The path forward...

Winding path

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.)

The Word Wood copyright by David WyattSettling 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.

The crossroad

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.

The first of the bluebells

Tilly and the bluebells

Now, what about you? Where does your path lead...?

Comments

I had to rebuild my life after the illness and death of a close family member a few years ago & I can relate so well to what you say about having to 'face the dust and cobwebs covering the negelected life to which you are returning'. Adrenaline, will power, and necessity got me through the crisis, but picking up my life again afterwards was unexpectedly hard. Be gentle with yourself right now. (I think you need a holiday in the sun, Terri! But if your post-crisis finances don't allow it, then be sure to take plenty of long quiet walks with Tilly...and maybe treat yourself to cocktails with little tropical umbrellas in them!)

I like the term 'self-full-ness' and I'm going to be thinking about how I can apply that to my own life and work.

Where is my path leading...? Back to school, I think. Gulp. There, I've said it, out loud, in public. I'm really going to do it. Wish me luck! As I wish you.

Thank you for posting your photos. They are always absolutely wonderful, and an inspiration in themselves. Very happy that you are back home again, and can hopefully put your former worries behind you. And I think you've got it right - time to go unplug the zombie-cable from the wall and get something done. :) Good luck.

Our bluebells are about a week behind yours (Yorkshire) so I'll be walking through them soon. I take the train to Guiseley and walk along the old coach road through Esholt Woods, then over the river along the very narrow suspension bridge, up to the canal, and back through Buck Woods, past the broken and discarded millstones and the lock-keeper's garden. I hope this spring and summer bring you much joy and satisfaction.

Your words struck me deeply, which I needed to read. Self-full. I've been denying myself time with myself because of other needs, or other's needs. Thank you, L.

Your self-fullness sounds a bit like the oxygen mask metaphor - of making sure to put it on yourself first so you are able to help/support others. Wishing you a wonderful unplugged time of inspiration and good work in your hillside studio - and on the paths with Tilly and Howard.

Thank-you!!Stunningly timely,your post.Many thanks.So now,i shall be gratefully stepping 'fully' into my own footsteps also and see where the enchantment leads...thankful for you and with you and wishing you magically well along your way.....

Fairfarren Terri! have a great time enjoying your spring and wishing you lots of those good moments where time slows right down & expands and lets you get everything done easily with a languid sort of grace, no racing about... just enjoying all the little steps along the way and the little diversions with Tilly & your good man Howard to sniff those new spring blooms!

Terri, thank you so much for this post. The next couple of months are going to be a time of big changes for me. This will be such an excellent thing to come back to and reread as I am thinking about my own to-do list, and the next stages of my life. I wish you all the best.

Having left Devon again last week after some gloriously sunny days in the South Hams and one day of Dartmoor gloom, I am very happy to see that the sun has returned, together with you. Have a wonderful, creative time!

There and Back Again! It sounds as though it's been an incredible journey for you, and I wish you so much healing and light during your time of recovery, renewal and re-rhythming. Trees have to be deeply rooted in the earth, and ever reaching for their own sun, to be able to offer fruit, shade and medicine for others. I think that might be one of the central aspects of "self-fullness" that is so easy to forget.

What a wise idea, taking time off. I have even considered taking the whole summer offline to regroup and answer a question similar to the one you asked, which path am I taking?

A very good question as always. I've been diagnosed with a chronic illness and not sure what to do. The good news is I'm tentatively starting to paint again, so maybe this will lead me onto the right path.
Very glad you have come through your troubles.

The Path

Step onto the path,
let it wind and unwind
along the silver stream.
Here bluebells wave,
ferns uncurl,
puffballs show their heft,
and the paw print of a dog
who has gone ahead
shows you where to go.
You can smell the darkness
and the light,
taste it on the air.
Time compresses,
and then like the road,
unwinds into the rest of your life.
That is the only magic that counts.
The only magic.
it is in your hand, your mouth,
your heart, your belly.
It is on the road.

xxxJane

These journeys become part of us...as much as an arm or a leg. I have had so many of these journeys, yet the sun shines, the laptop warms up to the touch, and our soul rises above all. Enjoy your time, come back when ready. We will be waiting all the while, working our own magic.

Thank you Terri for the timely words...I needed to be reminded of them in my quest to care for an aging parent in my home while my studio sits waiting for me to get out there. I will read your latest post frequently until I take heart and flee to my minds creative world.

Self-full, what an excellent idea. I think I need to be self-full for a while too. And I am so glad you are home, and it's Spring there, and there are Bluebells, and Tilly (of course), and wood walks and sunshine. Unplug with abandon, and then return refreshed to share the riches that come with journey!

I wish you a happy and healthy spring, Terri.

I recently heard a voice in my head (the muse-kind, not the crazy-kind) who said, "You don't have to run anymore."

I've been running my whole life (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively), so you can imagine how liberating that was. Of course, the voice was my own. Who knew I had such wisdom stored up?

Glad you are back on the job.....kiss the dog for me.....love, Stu...

William Stafford said writing a poem is like driving a car on dark road. You can only see as far as the
headlights. I think life is like that too.

A perfect timing for your post Terri.

It is coming up to a year since I closed the bookstore and even though I miss all the richness it gave me I look at it a time to start anew.

Wishing you well.

Love this!

Thank you Terri for expressing the reality of the artistic life for women so exactly. I have recently been ill through burn out and I am trying to remember to get my priorities right. I need to express my creativity too because if I don't allow myself the time I will be suppressing who I am which is very self destructive. I think that we do always put others first, which is not in itself a bad thing, but we have to find a balance which will nurture us in body and spirit. I am sending you my very best wishes and hope that all will soon be restored to wellness. Your blog inspires me so much. Thank you.

I've just recently been going over this question myself (here's my link if you're interested: http://kickingcorners.blogspot.com/2012/04/thanks-to-lazy-w-for-round-about.html) and you've beautifully answered many of my questions.

Thank you.

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