A Wake

Lily pads dip and quiver in the November breeze. Sun hot on the skin, feeling alien after days of grey, cold rain. The crowd gathers on spongy grass and gazes at koi carp, poked playfully by children on knees leaning over their reflections.  Love. That is what is thick in the air, that stays present even when the breeze picks up and the crowd moves into the stillness of the chapel.

The warmth of the falling tears comfort those around me, as we surge with emotion, some containing it, some letting it explode from the crevices of deep ache. For what do we cry? For the pain in our hearts? For the sudden memory of a moment we shared? For the floating thought of another long gone soul who catches our mind in a moment of openness? For the thought of the future, for us, for others, without this person present? A glimpse at our own funeral day? I allow the tears to splash, untethered, down my cheeks. Free to feel, to let my heart roam I am filled with life. With warmth for those who come together to share such life that has passed. My heart is held in my awareness. Comforted by my presence. I do not stifle or ignore. I am almost surprised at how simple my experience becomes when I choose to give it room. The pain ebbs through my chest and gently pulsates out into the air. Song sang passionately from the core sends ripples of hairs standing to attention all over my body. My eyes close in absorption. I am carried away.

As we stand and slowly make our way back to the carp and thick white mugs of strong tea, my insides long to make contact. As if by magic, I allow myself to ask. I am soothed by the presence of not one, but three warm embraces. Simple and humble, they reassure and comfort. My heart knows exactly what it needs. Laughter tinkles past half full glasses of wine.  Embraces catch contorted hands around damp tissues between chest and bosom and eyes squint, bloodshot at the low rays. I carry forward into the day, back into the step of life, with a fire inside me.

A Month Offline.

Two weeks ago it came to me. Sat in a sunny cafe window, licking melting flapjack from my fingers and inhaling the cardamon in my tea. I reached for my phone and mindlessly scrolled through instagram. Moments before I had been immersed with ink on paper. I was getting somewhere good. I was feeling excited. It all got too much. I stopped and distracted myself. After a few seconds it dawned on me. CHALLENGE! ADVENTURE! Time for a month offline. The below writing is what spilled out when I got home that evening. In the spirit of allowing words, exploration, self to flow and not be stunted I am posting as it is. As I am. Bare. Open. Ready to listen and see what happens. 

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The first moment I open my laptop after deciding to give up the internet for a month i google “giving up the internet for a month”. After perusing the list of hits and taking a quick read of a Guardian article I decide to cut that dead. Close window. Open new Pages document to begin to write this down. Shit. I am officially all i-Lifed up to the i-Balls and have just shouted at my laptop for spellchecking ILIFED (ah ha, it doesn’t do it in capitals – fuck you Apple).

I am weary. It’s been a long day. This isn’t me loosing my will to live and donning a tinfoil hat. I simply need a challenge. An adventure. But one that isn’t about More! Action! Crazy! Information! Give! It! To! Me!, or something with less exclamation marks, but is about less information. More focus. More connection. Simply slowing the fuck down and allowing my magpie mind a chance to catch up with itself. To work on the blossoming projects I am gently stoking and not run off, with the click of a button, to a distraction, to follow a glimmer of a fresh idea, to stick some stuff up on instagram or twitter or Facebook or stare at iPlayer until something looks appealing to while away an hour watching.

I am a writer. An artist. A sensitive, creative human being. And I am in a fledgling stage of cracking open the shell I have been squirrelling away in (sorry to mix animals… As I said, it’s been a long day) for the last 30 years (that is all of my life, by the way) and finding my true voice. 12 months ago I took a leap of pure blind faith into my practice and I haven’t looked back.  I have acquired a stack of qualifications and good jobs in my life, but nothing seemed to scratch the itch. The itch I couldn’t quite name for so long. Now, with the wonders of hindsight, a fantastic core process psychotherapist and a brilliant mentor I am beginning to see that I have had the answer all along. I just wasn’t wasn’t listening right. I have spent my whole life thinking that I was odd. Odd in a bad way. The world has felt too much for me on numerous occasions.

I have felt bamboozled and overwhelmed by the whole thing. My experience of the world, my misunderstanding of my sensitivity, my emotionality led me to believe I was mentally unwell, broken, unhinged. For some time I think I probably was. But man did I know how to hide it. Most of all from myself. I have been a master of disguise, a chameleon, a fractured girl and woman of many faces who constantly looked outward for validation, reassurance and to be told where to step next. I have been in the long, heart wrenching, renewing and quite simply word defying process of self discovery (a wanKy word, perhaps – bloody spellcheck again – I know, but kinda bang on the nail) and I am finally listening. I don’t quite know what has clicked, re-railed or shifted direction but it has now gotten to the point when I quite simply cannot put this shit off anymore. This is where the turning off the internet for a month comes in. As is the natural state of all things yin and yang, or something, along with this new found sense of  FUCK YEAH comes a great big clanging ARRRGGGHHHH HOLY SHIT in response. The deep fear of doing something new. Of standing strong in myself and spewing (now that was meant to say speaking but is a mis-typed autocorrect I will leave) my truth. Of really listening to my needs, to the delicate dance of self-caring as a sensitive woman. Of losing my humour, or rather my ability to use humour as a means of emotional avoidance, should I stand in true alignment with my deeply raw, juicy self. I want to shed the defences I have built around me and live true.

The fearful, critical voice in my brain imagines this Kathryn to be a bit shouty, a bit whingy, a bit boring… but I see you voice for what you are. You served me well when I wasn’t strong enough to stand on my own. You did your best to keep me safe. But this Kathryn that is being built from the inside out knows that should any shouting or whinging occur it will be done with loving awareness. Yeah, ok… I’ve set the bar a bit high there. To rephrase and clarify, I am finally recognising that is just ok to be human. The ball of wool that sat heavy and tightly tangled within me for so many years is loosening and I can start to see the strands. There’s loads more space in there now and that arsey looking cat in my head has stopped nastily playing with it so much. I am standing on the threshold of gaining a great deal, it is the getting over the welcome mat – and a lovely one it is too – that is proving tricky.

There will always be distractions, fear, self doubt and uncertainty, but it my time to sit with this and get some discipline in focusing on my work.  My work is my life, my story, my communication to the world and right now it needs some real affection. 

If you are still reading this, well done. You may think this is all a bit melodramatic for a month off the internet! Interesting thing – that really doesn’t bother me! This is a break through. This stream of words has come out as a freely written whole and the trusting of this, of my experience, of not self-editing so much is completely what I am talking about. Also, I am highly aware that if you are still reading you may actually be quite engaged, and that’s good, and with the powers of the internet and information consumption those who aren’t that arsed will be off looking at cats on youtube or reading the news.

So here it is… Who knows what will come out of this. I am reluctant to state what I am working on here, so as to put in writing something I will then be accountable to show in some way at the end of the month. This is a pressure I don’t think I need and this, right now, would be done out of a LOOK AT MEEEEEE itch. The fine line between wanting to ‘be seen’ and wanting to ‘be seen to be something’. No more like buttons. No more retweets. No more mindless scrolling and multiple-tabs opened with too.many.things.to.absorb.

Here’s to asking someone a question if I don’t know something.

Going to library if I need to know something that happens to be in a book. 

Writing.

Listening.

Feeling my way. 

Talking.

Reading.

Listening to music… Without online mix/radio streaming. Erm…

Cooking.

Making films – if I can work out how to teach myself the things I need to learn without youtube tutorials. Errrrm…. Software manuals?!

Listening even more.

Recording sounds. 

Watching films.

Walking.

Looking.

A bit more writing.

Yeah… ok, this list is getting pretty smug and shmultzy, and if it was written in a nice font it would be on numerous candy coloured Pinterest boards and Instagram feeds.

That is it. The end.

Thank you for reading.

 

The Writings of Bill Viola

Currently exploring digital video making, and making a short video on the often fine line between loneliness and solitude. The call of solitude, of walking alone in the landscape, that deafens me when caught in domestic frustration, when every day chores have taken their toll.  The search for silence so I can listen.  Here are the words of Bill Viola on just that:

Landscape can exist as reflection on the inner walls of the mind, or as a projection of the inner state without. Flat open vast space lends itself to a clearer monitoring of the subjective inner world.  Contemporary urban spaces talk to you, incessantly – signs call out, to try and grab you, programmed general consensus signals determine where and when you walk, the intersecting spheres of psychic perceptive space of others in too close proximity creates confusion and imbalance.  The “stillness” of the sleeping apartment building of 150 families is not “stillness” at all. Removing all cues, from the outside, the voices of the inner state become louder, clearer.

Note, 1979.

“Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House.”

Lost & Found

I am very proud to present ‘Lost & Found’ the film collaboration debut from Jo Keeling  and myself.

As part of the brilliant Ffotogallery‘s  ‘Introduction to Digital Video’ course that Jo embarked upon in September, a short film was to be made. I was very excited when she came to me with the idea of making the focus our love for collecting.

To spend some time reflecting on how collecting has been a part of my  life was enlightening and energising and this made the basis for the script. Jo’s vibrant storyboard and directing brought this to life and it was such a blast to shoot!

I have been so inspired by Jo and our collaboration that I am due to start the course myself in a couple of weeks… I may stay behind the camera from now on!

A great creative start to 2014!

Lost & Found from Jo Keeling on Vimeo.

Apologies for the lack of embedding. Some Vimeo issue. Just click on link.

Being Seen #2: High Sensitivity.

Severn Lichen

It has been a long time since I have written here about the vulnerability of being seen.  This is no surprise.  It is a fearful state for me, to be vulnerable and not know what will happen next.  In leaping into life as an artist, in creating time and conditions to explore the work that interests me, the issues that impassion me, I have opened up a great deal of uncomfortable emotion.  With a vow to not numb anymore, to be with my experience of life, I am tapping into deep pools of grief and pain that call me to action.  But this action will not let me avoid what needs to be sat with and fully experienced first.

I am, and have always been, a highly sensitive person.  I absorb the feelings and atmosphere around me.  I find busy environments draining after a short time. Sound, smell, the textures around me, the emotions of others, visual stimulation, I process it all deeply and reach my limits a lot sooner than many other people.  Around 15-20% of the population are highly sensitive, something I have learned from the work of Elaine Aron and other HSP focused practitioners whom I have been exploring over the last 18 months. Yet, I still struggle with accepting that this is part of me.  I try to out run it, test it, push it and I always, always end up on the floor.  When I listen to it, love it, nourish it I am happy, inspired, focused and creative. A great side of this trait, and it’s deep processing, is I see the nuances in this world in such a way I need very little stimulation to make me curious and keep me entertained.  Time alone, and with those close connections in my life, spent in nature, or exploring life in some way…  This is true happiness.  It is in overstimulation, when I want to rinse out my skin and my mind is whirring and pumping with annoyance, bile and suggestions for how to ‘stop being like this’ that I struggle to move.

To be the change that I want to see in this world means first allowing myself to be sensitive, emotional, fallible and whole.  To grow in strength and to take action to support others in this, through my teaching and creating, I first see myself in my wholeness.  To accept my sensitivity, to look after it, to take care of it.  To not busy myself with answers that sound about right or distractions that feel nice for a time, but leave me yet again alone staring into my unchartered inner waters.

In this process some big decisions are being made.  About my lifestyle, my career, my creative practice, my aspirations and my connections. I notice that I have been pushing for resolution in all of these areas over the last few months, but in writing this and looking at how far I have come and the desire to keep my foot to the floor and the revs up, I ease off a bit.

I am writing this here to give it space, a voice, to be noted.  To include it in the documentation of my creative growth and  practice without shame.  This is what fuels me in many different, but linked, guises.  A reminder to self that to enjoy the gifts of this trait I must also welcome and give love to the challenges it brings.  For it comes as a whole.  A whole heart.

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High Sensitivity – Super information, resources and people:

Elaine Aron – The Highly Sensitive Person

Caroline Van Kimmenade – The Happy Sensitive

Ane Axford – Sensitive + Thriving

Highly Sensitive and Creative

Composting

It’s that time of year when the damp roads and pathways bubble with the beginnings of mulching leaves.  That smell that means the end of Summer and the beginning of warm socks, knitted jumpers and catching the scent of wood smoke on the breeze.

It has also brought with it a lot of internal composting too.  To be completely honest this has been going on since July (hence the radio silence) but at last the seasons have caught up.  Listening to the hiraeth draw I spent a fantastic and nourishing week at the beautiful Mellowcroft in Powys in August and returned home to West Wales.  Now, back in Bristol I am feeling quite in my element on park walks and in the corners of cafes reflecting and listening to ideas and creative bubbling.

The last few months have brought with it the beginnings of great transition.  An exciting and nail biting step forward in my creative life; returning to part-time freelance Art Facilitator and opening up more time and space to focus on creative practice.  I have had the great fortune to have the multidisciplinary artist (and lovely person) Melanie Thompson agree to mentor me in this step.  The beginning of our journey together has been fantastically enlightening, supportive and inspiring…. and we are still in the starting blocks!

One of the things I have been grappling with over the last few months is the draw for validation about what I am doing. The reassurance that my work, my thoughts, my feelings on life and creating are good, right, justified and worth pursuing.  A trust and confidence I have faced in those shadow moments where all you want is someone to come along and take you by the hand to guide you through… A trust and confidence that only you can truly give yourself, in the middle of those nighttime hours spent pondering your next move.  A patience that feels contradictory.  Grieving for an old life. Witnessing a new life spreading out in front of me.

This is where I find myself now. Slowing down and being with myself.  Digesting change and listening. With pushing and demanding of results, productivity, big, constant, unrelenting action from myself I find myself two steps back.  In staying as connected as possible to my body, maintaining my needs for sleep, good food, exercise, comfort and good connections life begins bubbling and fizzing in the compost.

Creativity from the mulching.  Feeling my way, step by step.

Gone Fishing

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Mellowcroft – August 2013. Meadow Planting.

Mellowcroft Aug 13

Mellowcroft. August 2013.

Coppet Hall August 2013

Coppet Hall, Pembrokeshire. August 2013.