Category Archives: Creativity

Own Your Story

Life is full at the moment. In some ways I’m leading a double life. My weekdays are filled with a day job that I am very grateful for but I do not enjoy. The rest of my time is taken up immersed in my passion projects that I feel in the flow with, that I dream will lead to being able to further my purpose and be my living.

Some days it is really tough to get the balance right. Some days I find it difficult to focus on that part of my Story that matters to me most, to not get sucked into the daily grind of doing the work that gets the salary, that pays the bills.

And so, as seems a usual occurrence in my life, the universe puts messages in my way that help me navigate whatever difficulty I’m facing.

In the last couple of months there have been a lot of messages about Story. The importance of Story and Storytelling in our lives. The fact that our internal Story impacts the world around us – how we show up in society. So how do we own our Story in order to make the external impact one of hope, positivity, kindness and compassion?

I have shared the incredible work of Susan David PHD many times.
Her social media posts continue to provide inspiration nuggets like this one!

It seems to me that owning our Story is an act of Radical Self-Love. What is radical self-love? Meet Sonya Renee Taylor!

This podcast episode is a fantastic introduction to Sonya’s background and work.
Sonya the poet in her flow.

Having now read Sonya’s book The Body is Not an Apology, one of the key takeaways for me was that part of owning my Story would be owning my Body. This was an incredibly confronting concept for me! Warning: this will be very challenging for anyone who has struggled with feeling “not enough” and trying to reconcile your physical place in society!

Sonya’s affirmation exercises do seem to help. I feel like I’m slowly making progress with this part of owning my story. I love this quote from Sonya about stitching a new garment…

We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal, other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate, and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment, one that fits all of humanity and nature.

Sonya Renee Taylor

I read this quote from the legendary Brené Brown a number of years ago. These days I keep it close. I have found it comforting in this journey with Story and Storytelling.

If you haven’t read The Gifts of Imperfection, I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy or try the audiobook narrated by the author.
Here’s a taster…

What about being a Storyteller and sharing Story externally? Well, along came this National Geographic Education course – Storytelling for Impact – so, of course, I signed up. I loved this course. I have always loved photographs and photography but this course really opened my eyes to the power of this medium to share Story.

Stories … protect us from chaos … Implicit in the extraordinary revival of storytelling is the possibility that we need stories — that they are a fundamental unit of knowledge, the foundation of memory, essential to the way we make sense of our lives: the beginning, middle and end of our personal and collective trajectories.”

Bill Buford, the former fiction editor of the New
Yorker, writes this in his essay, “The Seduction of
Story Telling”
Here’s an example of a photo that shares Story… in this image are elements of my Story past, present and future. I love that you can see my faint reflection taking the photo. What I also love is the idea that no matter my intention in sharing this particular image, you will interpret your own Story within this same image 🖤

Any photograph has multiple meanings; indeed, to see something in the form of a photograph is to encounter a potential object of fascination. The ultimate wisdom of the photographic image is to say: ‘There is the surface. Now think — or rather feel, intuit — what is beyond it, what the reality must be like if it looks this way.’ Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy

Susan Sontag, “On Photography

The last idea I want to share about Story and Storytelling in this post centres around using this power to build awareness and promote behaviour change for some of humanity’s big social and environmental issues.

Here are a couple of academic papers looking at the place of Storytelling as part of the solution for climate change:

Storytelling is Part of the Solution to the Climate Dilemma

Transforming the Stories we tell about climate change: from Issue to Action

The latest from Project Drawdown is putting this Storytelling into action. Climate Solutions 101. This online course is for everyone – super accessible, delve in as deeply as you want. It promotes hope for the future and is packed with individuals and groups Stories of actions that any one of us can take to be part of the solution for this – the dilemma of our time.

By owning Your Story,

you own Our Story 🖤

Wild October

Mid-October. I am a couple of weeks into my strange sabbatical. Lots of taking stock and reflection.

It seems someone decided it was wild-for-nature October too, which I appreciate. This was my #wildoctoberart contribution. The art prompt that inspired this sketch and colour was misunderstood 😀

So this wild heart has an #inktober story to share. The meaning behind the new ink on my arm and how Dragonfly Travelling come to be…

I was probably about 14 or 15 years old. It was one of our family wanderings around South Africa. This time into the Drakensberg Mountains and a place called Injisuthi.

There are no words that really capture the grandeur of this place. It is truly wild and the magic of Mama Africa sparkles across the fast flowing streams and flits through the dells and gullys, then soars up and over the grass covered hills, along the cliffs and into the caves. Here the evidence of early human wanderers lingers.

Dad and I intended to try a 4 to 5 hour hike up into the mountains. A couple of hours in we lost the trail completely. Even retracing our steps didn’t work and we were soon well and truly lost. As the afternoon drew in so did the black storm clouds. We could see the river in the valley below that we would have to get down to and cross to find the road that would take us back to camp. Contouring along the ridges trying to find a path down to the river proved challenging as most the dells were thick with thorny brambles. We pushed through and eventually came to a shallow enough spot to cross the river. As we were crossing the heavens opened and the storm broke over us, thunder and lightning lending even more drama to our predicament. I had removed my hiking boots to cross barefoot. Once across I sat on a large flat granite rock to put my boots back on. The boots were new and had given me blisters. I was so tired by this point and pretty wobbly from feeling the concern of being lost in the mountains. We had been away from camp 6 or 7 hours by now and I knew my Mom would be worrying. So I sat on the rock trying to put those boots back on my broken feet. The rain stopped in those few minutes and the sun shone through a small break in the cloud. It shone down on my rock and in that moment two crimson dragonflies alighted onto the rock beside me. They weren’t there more than a few seconds and they were gone, the sun disappeared and the rain came back. We hiked to the road as the storm continued and a passing vehicle offered us a ride back to camp. We accepted gratefully, returning 8 hours after our departure to the relief of everyone.

That moment on the rock with those two dragonflies has left an indelible imprint on my soul. It has taken me years to find ways to express and articulate its significance. The fact I was with my Dad. The fact it was a challenging situation. The fact that it was in those magical mountains of my homeland. The fact it was dragonflies. So much symbolism…. I am an Enneagram Type 4 and we love us some symbolism 😀

It might seem strange to say but the dragonfly moment has become the expression of my sense of place in this world – my deep connection with Nature, with my family, with my roots, with my purpose. It turns out there is an African proverb that expresses this idea too. Ubuntu – I am because we are. For me we includes all of Nature. This has been grounding, particularly in the past couple of years as I have moved towards living my purpose.

And so I began to articulate the significance of this moment. It started with an email address, then a simple tattoo on my wrist. Now in the completed ink story on my wrist including all the colour possible with the African daisies! And this blog…. which still freaks me out every time I am compelled to post! Like I say in my little bio – an act of vulnerability for this wandering introvert. But as a lovely kindred spirit of mine says “growth through discomfort”.

Do you have a significant moment with Nature you can draw on? A moment that grounds you in who you are in the grand scheme of things and how you want to live on this Earth? What kind of legacy do you want to leave for your children and their children?

As the incomparable Sir David Attenborough says in his latest doco (a must watch!), we need “to move from being apart from nature to become a part of nature once again”.

I encourage you to find your Nature moment 🖤

New Beginnings

Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more important it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey.

John O’Donohue (exerpt from ANAM CARA)

Self-care September is nearly done. As I reflect back on these past weeks, I realise the Universe gave me a gift in this month’s focus on self-care. The Action for Happiness Self-care September calendar has been a wonderful companion this month.

This has been a whirlwind month or two dealing with the fall-out of the Covid-19 impact on my professional life. This rollercoaster of emotion has left me feeling quite depleted, hence the life-line of Self-care September. I have needed to tap into that trust of my soul that Irish poet, John O’Donohue, so wisely speaks of…. I even sent myself flowers 💛

I am over the worst of it …. Now the word that resonates is bittersweet.

Bitter – grieving the loss of not working, collaborating, learning and laughing with team of incredible individuals I consider my tribe.

Sweet – the anticipation, excitement and freedom that comes with being pushed to spread my wings.

Grounded in the understanding that I am only ready for this next adventure now because of what has come before, including the past four years teaching and learning along side this same incredible team – what a joy!

I feel a great sense of significance in the timing of this new beginning. That these last days as this chapter closed also held World Rhino Day and the Spring Equinox.

Rhinos are my spirit animal. They are a symbol of assurance, confidence and steadiness – all traits I have needed in this time of increasing uncertainty.

A change of season heralds new things and spring particularly is about growth, renewal, new beginnings.

I opened with words from John O’Donohue… I am going to conclude this post with more Celtic wisdom from this great soul… this time from To Bless the Space Between Us

For A New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety,

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear,

You can trust the promise of this opening,

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning,

That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure,

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk,

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

John O’Donohue, from To Bless the Space Between Us

And so my next adventure begins… Pure Spaces Education…. coming soon!

Sir Ken

A small tribute to a great man whose heroic voice has had a profound impact on me personally and professionally.

I was first introduced to Sir Ken Robinson by chance quite a few years ago now. Stumbling across his book Out of Our Minds: the power of being creative. The concepts he introduced me to in this book were game changing.

Then there was the TED talk Do Schools Kill Creativity? Nothing more to say here.  If you have not watched it yet, do.

I had the privilege of hearing him present as the keynote speaker at the Future Schools conference a few years ago. I have such a lasting impression of him not just presenting us with what was wrong in education but emphasising what we could all be doing to make it better. He was profoundly sincere in his advocacy for change at the same time as being incredibly witty – a killer combination!

His book Creative Schools completely transformed my teaching practice. The principles he lays out in this particular book continue to inform the dream projects I am working on in conservation and environmental education.  Most particularly where he says that “education is deeply personal”.

And from a personal perspective, his books with Lou Arnica, The Element: how finding your passion changes everything and Finding Your Element: how to discover your talents and passions and transform your life, have, as it says in the title, been life-changing… helping me tap into my creativity, passion and purpose.

His passing is a huge loss to the world. I am deeply grateful to have heard his message. My hope is that I can carry this message for bringing creativity forward and advocating for education reform with me on my journey. If others who were impacted as profoundly by his voice as I was do the same, what a legacy he leaves!

While it seems too soon to lose such a wonderful human being, I am glad he passed peacefully and surrounded by family. I hope they find peace in their grief.

Thank you, Sir Ken. Rest in Peace 🖤

Breathing

Back to level three lockdown here in Auckland as we grapple with our first outbreak of Covid-19 since flattening the curve.

Another chance to pause and reflect. Another reminder that nothing will be as it was before….

What do you do when you can’t go anywhere or plan your usual travel adventures?….. Relive my weekend just gone… much time on the couch attending a virtual elephant radio collaring project in South Africa followed by a virtual concert also live from South Africa – my favourite band, Prime Circle.

I re-watched the concert today…. So good as always! Prime Circle rocks!

They played one of my most favourite songs – Breathing. Then I remembered lockdown a few months ago…. Listening to that song while painting. The ellie painting in the pic above came out of that session and so I added some of the lyrics to a digital version of the artwork… this version on my visionboard.

So, it turns out a few months ago I was putting creative energy into a moment that would make complete sense in my August is for Elephants 2020.

And now I am reminded that in amongst all this chaos and uncertainty, strangely there is pattern, there is connection… even if it is just to remember to breathe, to let go and be on the journey, guided in the flow.

The universe is unfolding exactly as it should…. Trying to find stillness to tune into the intuitions and nudges of this unfolding and not get in my own way.

“I know we’ll breathe again.”

Prime Circle