Autumn Reflections on Summer High Jinks: Part Two

In my last post, I wrote about the fun and frolics of this year’s summer, with a promise of further reflections about my souvenir stack of books.

Yum!

As I mentioned previously, I try not to bring physical books into our apartment these days. We have just about enough space for the books currently in our library, and not too much more. I mostly try to read e-books for convenience these days. But it is hard to resist such delicious treats sometimes.

All of the books in the stack are for reading. Some are also for looking at. They all, just by chance, have marvellously tactile qualities, enhancing the physical experience of reading all the more.

I bought Felix CulpaDrawing Water and Dull Margaret after attending author events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Jeremy Gavron’s novel is about the search for a troubled boy recently released from prison. The text has been woven like a rich tapestry with lines from 100 other books. As a result, it reads like a beautiful prose poem, full of wonder and depth. Gavron gave a fascinating and very personal talk about how he came to publish such a work, including several readings. I urged him to create an audio version when he signed my copy – fingers crossed.

Tania Kovats hosted a thought-provoking event in which she talked to Maria Popova (of BrainPickings fame) about the pioneering environmentalist, Rachel Carson and her seminal work The Sea Around Us. The discussion ranged widely, touching on issues such as climate change, women being taken seriously (or not), and the power of art and poetry to illuminate complex issues. In Drawing Water, Kovats has curated a wonderful collection of art and writings from all kinds of people who are searching for something via the medium of water: map-makers, whalers, engineers etc. It is the most gorgeous collection and one which I will be dipping in to forever.

Before attending the event with actor Jim Broadbent and illustrator Dix, I was not sure about their book Dull Margaret, with its rather brutal graphic depiction of the title character’s bleak existence. Having heard them talk about generously about the development process, with Jim Broadbent at his lyrical best, expanding eloquently about his love for the beleaguered Margaret, I just had to buy a copy. I am only slowly becoming more acquainted with graphic novels and it is a fascinating journey.

 

Further visual feasts were in store, with Roger Billcliffe’s talk about ‘The Art of the Four’, namely Charles Rennie Mackintosh, his wife Margaret MacDonald, her sister Frances MacDonald and James Herbert McNair. His recent book about the work of these four friends and their relationship with the rest of the art world is a sumptuous read as well as being utterly absorbing visually. I love Margaret’s work in particular and it was such a pleasure to hear more about these important artists.

And more visual stimulation arrived via Fiona Watson and Piers Dixon, who spoke entertainingly about their work on the relationship between Scottish history and the landscape around us. I am fascinated by the geology of Scotland, as well as being totally in love with this gorgeous part of the world. I am looking forward to spending many hours pouring over the amazing pictures and brilliant insights in their book.

 

Kate Davies’ book Handywoman is a must-read for anyone interested in the life- and health-enhancing features of creativity. It is no secret that I am passionate about the importance of creativity in our lives, whatever form it may take. I therefore also love the ethos behind the Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Playbook, which celebrate the ordinary and everyday through stranded knitting. I know both these books will provide much inspiration.

 

I picked up these two books in the Book Festival shop while kidding myself that I was just having a browse and did not intend to buy anything.  Matthew Herbert’s novel takes place over the course of just an hour. I think its reading experience may be similar to Jeremy Gavron’s novel in that it is a non-traditional, poetic treatment of words as experiences and emotions. Ziyad Marar’s book takes a look at that endlessly fascinating topic of how we judge, and are judged. Once I had picked it up, I could not put it down again because the cover feels so gorgeous. But more seriously, it chimes directly with the themes I am currently exploring with my sister on our Bald as Brass Blog.

 

As for these Victoria Crowe books, well that deserves a whole post to itself – the third and final part of this mini-series, coming soon….

 

In the meantime, let me close this post with the book on the top of my pile – Dear Heart, by Jenny Davis. This is one of those books which feels like a sacred and rare jewel in the hand. It was recommended by my dear friend Gallivanta, who wrote:

‘In 1988 Jenny Davis stumbled upon dozens of letters her aunt, Wynne, had written to her young soldier husband Mickey during World War II. Many of the letters remained unopened, still bearing the mark of their tragedy, a war office stamp, “No Trace”. This book is the story of an exceptional love as told by those letters written over a four year period from 1941 – first daily, then weekly. Wynne received only two replies and yet she poured out her hopes and reassurances and titbits of news from the home front. In 1945, at the end of the war, Wynne received both the unopened letters, and the news that Mickey had died in 1943 in Malaya, in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.’

I just had to get my own copy and how glad I am that I did. I am of course looking forward to delving into the story. It also acts as a mark of friendship across the miles. How I love this online community of ours! 🙂

 

100 days of creativity: my digital doodling project

It’s no secret that I am a huge believer in the power and value of creativity to enhance our lives. This can take any form – it’s simply doing something which you love and which makes your heart sing.

Q: what is creativity?

A: the relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration

~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

At the start of a workshop recently, attendees were asked to introduce themselves – you know, that initial ‘creeping death’ exercise – to include something about ourselves that we felt other people should know. I found myself saying that being creative every day was one of the most important aspects of my life, to the extent that an absence of creativity causes detriment to my health and wellbeing.

Cue a rather uncomfortable tumbleweed moment, as the other participants looked at me blankly. Admittedly, this was a somewhat unusual thing to say in the context of a business meeting about strategic planning. In fact, it even came as a surprise to me to find out that this is how I felt. And yet, as I was speaking, I could feel in my bones the compelling truth of my words.

I consider myself to be very fortunate that I have the time and mental energy to make things on a regular basis. I have written plenty of times on this blog about my knitting and crochet projects, baking escapades, photography etc. But it occurred to me that I don’t actively prioritise being creative as an essential part of how I use my time.

A couple of days ago, I was on a train to Glasgow for a meeting. Whereas I would usually be checking e-mails, ticking stuff off my to do list etc, I chose instead to make some art. I had been reading a book about the Scottish artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh over the weekend – this year marks the 150th anniversary of his birth – and decided on the spur of the moment to close the inbox and doodle some CRM-esque roses:

I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed working on this sketch, for which I used the Procreate Pocket app on my phone and a stylus. Just 30 minutes of this activity gave me a zing in my heart and a spring in my step for the rest of the day.

Developing a regular sketching habit has been on my list of ‘things I really want to achieve’ for far too long now. So I have decided to have a go at the ‘100 day project’ challenge. This is where you commit to doing something small each day for, yes, 100 days in a row. It can be absolutely anything – I have seen examples of people doing yoga, taking a photograph, publishing a favourite quote. You get the idea. In my case, I will be publishing a digital doodle on Instagram each day. Here’s the first one:

Sitting here at my desk, I can hear a wide range of different birdsong – goldfinches, great tits, chaffinches – but what stands out are the swoops of the swifts’ rasping screech – a wonderfully iconic sound at this time of year.

I wondered whether it was wise to write about this project at the start, or whether it would be better to discuss it at the end, once I could say I had actually done it. I decided that sharing the experiment as I went along might be more interesting. Who knows, in a few weeks’ time, I might be writing about how difficult it was to maintain. But let’s not be too negative. I am actually expecting to be writing about all the very positive and joyous results of finally embracing a habit which has long been my wish to develop. We’ll see! 🙂