It was clearly going to be one of those days when music lyrics “spoke to me”…I could sense this from the fact that my iPod, on random shuffle, delivered “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother” followed by 1990s weepathon girl band All About Eve’s poignant delivery of “The Pearl Fishermen”. Two songs about brotherhood, back-on-back…what were the odds? The second was a tragic story of a doomed pair of brothers, both diving for the same pearl seen glinting on the sea bed, both prepared to watch the other die rather than loose the perceived treasure only, of course, its only an illusion; and so the story repeats and repeats, played out as the very stuck-in-a-groove pattern of humanity…(until suddenly it doesn’t and we come to our senses). While the song is painfully beautiful, I preferred the optimism of the first one and so found myself still vacillating between humming one and then the other, like a battle of wills, as I parked up the car for my walk.
When I reached the meadow alongside the river, and as the verdant beauty of it all began to arrest me in what had started out as a fairly robust stride (having things I planned to do with my day), another lyric began playing in my head, arriving – seemingly – from nowhere. “You are everything and everything is you, ohh, you are everything and everything is you”, round and around.
Where had Diana Ross suddenly appeared from? I hadn’t knowingly heard this song in a long time though it certainly makes up part of the soundtrack of my early childhood; forever on the playlist of local radio circa 1974 onwards, it was a song that would stick in my head on perpetual loop as I created play-dens in the garden or pushed my scooter up and down the garden path during those years of the kind of creative and exploratory play that generally took place out-of-doors. Like a mantra getting deep into my childhood psyche ready to blossom another day; its subliminal “truth message”only now hit home to me and I laughed to observe how we set up these breadcrumb trails to ourselves through the cultural wallpaper of our experiences.
When I got home from that walk, a some-time brewing thought process (“I should explore my drawing skills again, remind myself what a pencil looks like”) developed suddenly into a compulsive urge. Shoving my other plans for the morning to one side, I was suddenly grabbing the large sketch pad I’d put ready by my chair, oh, about six weeks ago now then scrabbling in a drawer to find a tatty old 3B pencil along with a grubby old putty rubber and my daughter’s old pink pencil sharpener. Suddenly, after a break of at least 18 months, I was drawing again, having done nothing but paint in all that time.
What evolved was a self-portrait that made me part of the very landscape that I love; an amalgam of rolling patchwork fields, flowing river and country lanes (perhaps bizarrely) bordered by garden flowers; because any oddness to it really didn’t matter, this was a drawing meditation and there simply was no plan and what flowed out of me just flowed. What I was suddenly conscious of doing here was that I was putting myself back IN to the landscape, I was BEING that landscape; no longer the omnipresent and implied witness to it through my art, I was right there – dead centre – as if I was growing out of this fantasy-scape, or perhaps it was growing out of me!
One of the first sensations I tripped upon as it came to a conclusion was a vague sense of embarrassment at the thought of sharing it with anybody; at having made myself so prominent in it, or putting myself in it at all. Some old “belief system” programming still running in the back of my mind tried to announce “how arrogant, how egotistical” in its familiarly disapproving voice, and “surely this a bit twee, a bit saccharin…” and yet “conscious me” found the very fact of this oh-so enlightening and smiled quietly in recognition of the outmoded reprimand that this was. I hadn’t drawn this to be commercial or even to, particularly, “put out there” in the public domain but I could see that it had value in other ways.
My next layer of fascination came from interpreting what I had included in the drawing, which was all quite intuitive and entirely unpremeditated.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was that butterfly I keep talking about as my metaphor of the year; interestingly one of the peacock variety that were fluttering around in my garden last summer when I was most in my bliss writing my book.
Then the bee; another symbol that has always resonated for me (one of my most treasured things is a white jacket with bees embroidered all over it…), the oh-so illustrious bee yet only so productive because he is perpetually in his bliss amongst the flowers and the nectar, doing exactly what he loves to do and yet, while focused on his bliss, unwittingly the linchpin that makes all the difference to the world at large, without whom our very ecosystems would come crashing down. Focused intently on the pursuit of what brings him immediate satisfaction and, to his perspective, makes a difference only in his tiny world, he yet contributes to the all of everything – isn’t this the very case of it for all of us and the very reminder that it is enough to be in that place of personal focus and joy – to find that sweet spot in our life and stay there – since we are all so intrinsically connected and play our part, by doing this, in ways beyond our knowing? In short, living in our joy is quite enough; is all we are here to do.
The ever flowing river, the white swan; symbol of such purity and grace as she glides on smooth water yet with a determination and fearsome strength that her white angel feathers belie. Interesting, then, that I have placed myself into the flow, the flow is also emanating from me, all distinction between one and the other blurred-away…I am in the flow, of the flow, that is very much my reality these days, just as I seem to have depicted here.
The oak tree; its antiquity, its strength, its deep roots solidly grounded…celebrated both in summer leafiness and winter bareness (interesting that I wanted to include them both in equal part in what conveys itself, across the drawing, as a theme of all-season inclusiveness).
Above that, the red kite…eternal symbol of my daily walks, the very place that I live…soaring high above it all with his bird’s-eye view. Then the red-breasted robin, always there, always watching – the very talisman of my life story, the angel of my daily walks.
That same balance as with the seasons, I find, is also there in the light~dark balance of the shading of my own “body”, such as it is – something I only noticed a day after I had put my pencil down yet its so clear to me, now, how I could be the very yin~yang symbol, for all I didn’t consciously design it this way!
A winding path – the path of life? – light dappled and, of course, walked by my beloved dog Rudi. The view could be a dozen from my walks…sheep grazing, a copse of trees, light coming through branches, interestingly this flock placed in mother and lamb pairings; some maternal sentiment slipping through. Then, perhaps oddly, the landscape morphing into sea with a boat; is this the stirring of a longing I have to travel farther afield, to explore beyond my own horizon?
Flowers: an equal mix of blowsy and structured, wild and cultivated; my favourite peony next to the hard geometry of alium-like thistle heads – the very mix I’ve included tells me a lot about myself. Berries suggest fruitfulness, maturity and the ripe delivery – a realisation – of what starts as potential; this is how I like to see myself, I know that. Then poppies…they could be any colour but I imagine the front one being deepest red and, only later, gleaned some sort of meaning from its position so close to my heart; perhaps the very bleeding heart of what has been, sometimes, a painfully empathic soul. Yet tinkling like fairy bells in centre position, right where my heart really is, are my favourite bluebells playing out their happy little tune to all the random, playful rhythms of the spring breeze…this feels like where my heart lives now; bears all the hallmarks of the lighthearted-playfulness and all the fresh violet-bluiness that is (mostly) the colour of my inner landscape these days.
A final touch: one of Nature’s most common-place examples of a Fibonacci spiral, the fern brushing up against my face serves as the perpetual reminder that there is a golden design to everything in the universe…and that I am part of that design.
It was a satisfying, if deeply personal, piece of art to work on for what turned out to be much of that day. Most of all, it was such a fascinating journey “into me” – to be the very landscape I stepped into and explored, for once – and to get lost in such a drawing process, which was both a therapy and a meditation much more than a consciously directed art-practice and something I would heartily recommend to any of you that feels able to surrender to the process of drawing whatever comes up to be expressed without questioning what or why until its done. I knew, even as I extrapolated what began as a self-portrait into all that morphed from it, that this had all birthed from the song lyrics that had so spontaneously come a- drifting into my head “from nowhere”. So, on my walk the next day, I found myself repeating those words all over again only, this time, they were tweaked to become “I am everything and everything is me…” Sang on loop to the rhythm of my footfall, this became the mantra to a walking-meditation that somehow took the experience of sunshine through blossom, of wind tickling through a sea of bluebells, of white-flowered nettles in the hedgerow and all the verdant new growth of springtime against the majestic pines of my forest walk to a whole new and inclusive level that held me as its very centrepiece – as we all are to our own life experience.