A sense of home


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I’ve been working away from home and travelling a lot as part of this work role. This past week, I was in a different town pretty well each night. So it was with much pleasure that I arrived home on Friday night with a few days in my blessed and special home and village.

It’s hard to describe what makes a sense of home but loved ones being there or close by is a central ingredient. For my home and village, it’s the sunshine, the water, the birds that visit that like the kookaburra above who joined me for my breakfast on my return, my personal library of favourite books, the feel of familiar carpet and river slate tiles under my feet, my own bed, a warm bath and trees outside every window rustling in an early August breeze. And it’s all blissful.

I’m lucky. I live in a special place, a village I choose to call home that is surrounded by beach and bush. As an introvert who works hard with many people interactions in my day job, both my village and house are places of retreat and recharge. A place to rest, walk, feel the sand under my feet and the water flowing over them; a place to read, write, reflect; a place of solace and replenishment; of good food, words and wine; and a place to be myself with people who love me.


Being away so much and coming back, it’s easy to focus on what is not right: the weeds in the garden beds; the renovations still not finished after months of weekend work; the stuff that’s not tidy or finished; the clutter here and there. But this weekend has been about focusing on what is right and perfect now in this house, this village, my life: a loved and loving partner; a gorgeous independent daughter with so many skills, passions and opportunities; my gentle beautiful mother; the view, the trees, the beaches and bush, the books, the creative inspirations and connections and my independence to explore it all.

I’ve gone back to a couple of my favourite authors too in coming home: May Sarton and Marion Milner, both of whom wrote journals and explored a sense of home and happiness. Their words are thoughtful and reflective identifying the passions and the hopes in being and coming home:

My daydreams are nearly all of country cottages, of little gardens, of ‘settling down’ with flowers in vases and coloured curtains. I don’t think of backaches, dish washing.

I want to live amongst things that grow, not amongst machines. To live in a regular rhythm with sun and rain and wind and fresh air and the coming and going of the seasons I want a few friends that I may learn to know and understand and talk to without embarrassment or doubt.

I want to write books, to see them printed and bound. And to get clearer ideas on this great tangle of human behaviour.

To simplify my environment so that a vacillating will is kept in the ways that I love. Instead of pulled this way and that in response to the suggestion of the crowd and the line of least resistance

From “A Life of One’s Own”, Joanna Field (Marion Milner), Virago Press, p 51

I am here alone for the first time in weeks, to take up my ‘real’ life again at last. That is what is strange – that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life unless there is time alone in which to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened. Without the interruptions, nourishing and maddening, this life would become arid. Yet I taste it fully only when I am alone here and ‘the house and I resume old conversations’

From ‘Journal of a Solitude‘ by May Sarton, Norton, p 11

I also remember that the book I am currently reading is ‘Coming Home’ by Rosamunde Pilcher. Home and the significance of its sense of place in the midst of coming and going and change is clearly on my mind and I am seeking its comfort in both a physical and spiritual sense. I take these reflections with me as I head into a new week and new month full of opportunity.


Novels: lost, found and unwritten


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Novel pics (2)The recent announcement of the lost novel from Harper Lee, the unpublished unknown predecessor of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, written before, that tells us the next step in the story, raised many questions.

Firstly it seems incredulous that this could be so. That such an archetypal novel had an earlier sister and that it took the events further was a surprise. How could we have not known all this time? Where was this novel? Why was it not published before?

Then later that some day, the announcement of a new novel by Milan Kundera, author of ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’, again such an archetypal novel and one that had a profound effect on me in the late 80s, accompanied by an amazing film. Now another novel by this great author is to come after a significant silence of more than a decade.

It set me thinking about the ‘inevitability’ of novels, about the novels that get lost (see this article on delayed and lost novels – especially one that got lost in the post!), the novels that are found, the ones that get delayed for a long time. And the ones that risk not being written at all.

It brought to mind ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society‘, “a first novel from a 70 year old former librarian, Mary Ann Shaffer”. According to the book’s bio, Mary Ann first became interested in Guernsey in 1976; then many years later was goaded into writing a book and revisited her thoughts about Guernsey. Mary Ann died in 2008 without seeing her book in print and knowing the fame it enjoyed and the pleasure it kindled in others.

It made me go back to some loved works on resistance and silence and to reflect on some words in this space:

From ‘The War of Art‘ – Stephen Pressfield

“Creative work is not a selfish act or bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got”.

From ‘Silences‘ – Tillie Olsen

“Literary history and the present are dark with silences: some the silences for years by our acknowledged greats; some silences hidden; some the ceasing to publish after one work appears; some the never coming to book form at all.”

And wise words from Maya Angelou:

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Milan Kundera states in a 1983 Paris Review interview:

“A novel is a meditation on existence, seen through imaginary characters. The form is unlimited freedom. Throughout its history, the novel has never known how to take advantage of its endless possibilities. It missed its chance.”

So many endless possibilities, so many chances.

What untold stories ask to be written and how can we make sure they come to light and don’t get lost or forgotten?

Let’s not miss the chance.


A change of scenery – a photo-essay


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At the beginning of this week, my partner Keith said to me, “How would you like to go to dinner in Mudgee on Friday?” This, an invitation to go away for the weekend at short notice, to meet some other practical needs but also to have a much needed break and change of scenery.

Usually needing weeks of notice for such things so I can plan ahead, my eyelids fluttered and I came up with a few reasons why maybe it wasn’t a good idea. Some of these were real. Once sorted through, we booked a guesthouse a few days in advance for the weekend and headed out of the city on Friday afternoon.

It was lovely to be leaving the city. We hit the city outskirts and climbed the mountains, making our way through fog and the sound of bellbirds as we wound our way west.

1 Fog and bellbirdsBefore too long we were heading towards our destination as the sun was going down. The open landscapes darkened as the sky turned into blue-grey dusky-pink tones making a back-drop for the shadows of trees.

2 Sunset en route to Mudgee We arrived about 7:30pm to find our beautifully warm and inviting guesthouse with every detail in place, like bush flowers on the centre of the enormous dining table.

3 Flowers on arrival 2We headed out shortly after arrival for the promised dinner date, ending up at a wine bar with a rustic and modern feel. We immediately enjoyed settling in after our travels with music, great food and good local wine.

3b Friday night outThe next morning we woke to find out more about where we were. We found a clear open landscape with the bluest of blue sky days waiting for us.

4 View next morning_1903 5 Blue sky gumtree_1907Our hosts cooked us eggs benedict with mushrooms and the most divine hollandaise sauce and shortly after breakfast we set out for a further drive of two hours to Coonabarabran. We drove through many small country towns like Mendooran and Dunedoo.

Driving through, the local Mechanics Institute Hall at Mendooran founded in 1935 caught my eye. So lovingly cared for, it stood in stark contrast to many of the other faded buildings in town. The Mechanics Institutes were the early forerunners of technical and trades education and my great, great, great grandfather was a founding member of one in Goulburn.

6 Mech Inst_1918 7 Mech Inst 2_1921





















There were signs painted on the sides of buildings evoking times past surrounded by growing grass and weeds.

8 Goldenia tea_1928We headed back to Mudgee and a late afternoon winery visit, tasting organic wines and sharing a grazing plate of fetta cheese, olives, prosciutto, rocket, sun dried tomatoes and crispy bread. There was an exceptional organic rose of the most pure colour especially when contrasted with the bluest of skies.

9 Rose in vineyards_ 10 Rosemary blue sky_1952We returned to our abode in the shadow of mountains to the sun going down and the opportunity to quietly enjoy the guesthouse all to ourselves.

11 Returning and chess sunset_1955 12 Sunset doorway _1965 13 Chairs_1969 It was the most precious weekend and I feel rejuvenated. It made me realise how much  a change of scenery can stimulate the senses and be an invitation to relax, reflect and be open to new opportunities. There’s a time of transition coming up again and I’m ready to embrace it now with a calm heart.

15 sunset doorway 2_1975With much love and thanks to Keith for the invitation and dinner date and for so often knowing what I need and how to get me there. x

Reflections on reading Australian women writers


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It’s International Women’s Day and I’m sitting here on a sunny Sydney Sunday listening to women’s music on the radio – flipping between Double J and Triple J – and thinking about reading Australian women writers.

It’s my fourth year of participating in the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge and I thought I’d take a few minutes on this IWD to reflect on my experience of reading Australian Women Writers via the challenge.

The challenge is about enjoying, supporting, sharing and promoting Australian women’s writing. If you want to know about the challenge, you can read more about it here: Background to the Challenge. And you can sign up for 2015 here: Sign up to the Challenge.


Started by Elizabeth Lhuede in response to gender imbalance in books reviewed, in reading preferences and choices and in award representation, the challenge has created a groundswell of readers, reviewers, bloggers and tweeters making a conscious choice to read, review, communicate about and celebrate books written by Australian women.

Now in its fourth year, the challenge has resulted in thousands of Australian women writers’ books being read and reviewed and national and international recognition of its quiet achievements.

As the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge blog states:

The Australian Women Writers’ Challenge is part of a world-wide movement to raise awareness of excellent writing by women. It helps readers to challenge the subconscious stereotypes that govern our choice of books to read.

I’ve signed up again in 2015 because it’s now an integral part of my reading choices and I continue to be inspired and excited by Australian women’s writing. I’ve enjoyed diverse reads over 2012 to 2014. There are so many Australian women writers’ works I simply would not have noticed or enjoyed if not for the challenge.

The challenge has made me seek out new Australian women writers, revisit writers I’ve enjoyed and kept my antenna up about their successes, awards and commendations within the circle of women’s writing and beyond.

It’s kept my writing heart alive and is an inspiration as I read; a message that I am also able to write and create, express my stories and find space for my narratives in whatever form. As my heritage, it’s where I can find linkage, possibilities and a springboard for creating. I’ve written about that here and here adding my voice to the space.

In terms of participation, my reading lists are not enormous – around 6 to 7 books a year, but they are steady and growing. I’ve struggled to write the reviews as I would like, but I’ve engaged with the reading and with the AWW community via social media. I’ve contributed that way and made some great online connections with Australian women writers and their readers that have enriched my reading life and beyond.

You can participate to whatever level you can manage and the pleasures and learning are immense for that investment, raising awareness of reading choices and celebrating narratives and works by Australian women and inspiring women to find their voices through reading the voices of others.

It’s no light-weight endeavour. These are to me the voices of creative possibilities and I treasure them.

Here’s my reading list so far:

Searching for the Secret River: A Writing Memoir – Kate Grenville
Sarah Thornhill – Kate Grenville
When We Have Wings – Claire Corbett
The Light Between Oceans – M L Stedman
Poet’s Cottage – Josephine Pennicott
The Engagement – Chloe Hooper
Disquiet – Julia Leigh

Fishing for Tigers – Emily Maguire
Sea Hearts – Margo Lanagan
Sydney – Delia Falconer
The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton
The Scrivener’s Tale – Fiona McIntosh
The Longing – Candice Bruce

Questions of Travel – Michelle de Kretser
Burial Rites – Hannah Kent
Mateship with Birds – Carrie Tiffany
Currawong Manor – Josephine Pennicott
The Fictional Woman – Tara Moss
Claustrophobia – Tracy Ryan
All the Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld

Many of these books were picked up because I was looking for Australian women writers’ books in libraries, shops and online. I possibly would not have read ‘Light Between Oceans’, ‘Poet’s Cottage’, ‘The Longing’ or ‘Claustrophobia’ if not for the challenge and these have become some of my favourite reading experiences of the challenge so far.

I have deliberately read across genres and so if not for the challenge, may not have enjoyed the beautifully science fiction inspired, ‘When We Have Wings’, the Celtic fantasy world of ‘Sea Hearts’ or the weaving medieval narrative of ‘The Scrivener’s Tale’.

I’ve been more aware and more excited when Australian women writers have been nominated, short-listed and won awards for their books and I’ve sought out the books to see why they were celebrated in their achievements, especially ‘Questions of Travel’, ‘Burial Rites’, ‘Mateship with Birds’ and ‘All the Birds, Singing’.

In 2015, I’ve already read the exquisitely tender ‘The Golden Age’ by Joan London and have Annabel Crabb’s ‘The Wife Drought’ lined up to read. I’m keen to read Clare Wright’s ‘The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka’ and also read some writers I haven’t read like  Sonya Hartnett, Geraldine Brooks and Liane Moriarty.

It’s been a rich journey and I encourage you on this International Women’s Day to seek out the voices of women writers that excite and sustain you wherever they may be.


The art of blossoming


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1. A flower or cluster of flowers.
2. The condition or time of flowering: peach trees in blossom.
3. A condition or period of maximum development.

intr.v.blos·somed, blos·som·ing, blos·soms
1. To come into flower; bloom.
2. To develop; flourish: The child blossomed into a beauty.

From The Free Dictionary

My word for the year in 2014 was ‘blossoming’.When you choose a word for the year, it’s about intent. Though sometimes as the year evolves, you can forget about this intent, sometimes even forget the word itself as busyness overtakes. But somehow this intent weaves its subtle way and the results might not be exactly as you thought.On the surface, last year didn’t feel like a year of blossoming. It felt more like a year of ploughing, preparation, perspiration and intense hard work.

But looking at the definition: “a condition or period of maximum development”, “producing flowers”, it’s possible that this was the underlying development phase of fruits and flowers to come, the value of which might be better understood in hindsight at a much later date. Blossoms won’t happen without this work, this preparation for the future, this investment in growth.

Reflecting further, I see that the blossoming may in fact have been very long term and much deeper than I realise.

Before my daughter was born, I had a journal called “Blossoming”. Clearly it’s a key recurring word for me. I had forgotten this journal, this title I gave it so long ago and the intent established at that time now 22 years ago. I only remembered this and made the link very recently. In there, I write:

“The next phase is one of blossoming, flowering, preparing for bearing fruit.”

In just over a year from writing those words, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter.And for much of this past year, she has lived in Japan, studying, living independently and so happily, developing her already excellent Japanese language skills, travelling, interacting, learning, making many new friends, thriving and growing into the most beautiful woman I am so proud of. Watching this blossoming mostly from afar has been the greatest achievement of 2014, if hard at times because of distance. This letting go also part of my own growth.

I read these lovely words recently which exactly capture the sense of my growth through my daughter:

“I am from my daughter. She gave birth to the woman I am, as much as I gave birth to her entire being. Definitely not a mainstream way of looking at motherhood. But it’s true. I would not be the woman I am today were it not for her existence and her own kind of wisdom”

From “Up to my knees in the writing waters

So not so much my own blossoming and achievement, much more my daughter’s this past year, with her growth and flowering becoming my growth and flowering: the longest term of blossoming and the deepest expression of love. A precious realisation.


Creativity and flow


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FLOW: ‘Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in an interview with Wired: ‘Go with the Flow’

My word for 2015 is ‘flow’. When thinking about my word and focus for 2015, I knew it had to be something to do with creativity, writing, poetry and actually producing more tangible results.

When I reflected and searched for what would make this creativity happen, it kept coming back to flow as the essential active ingredient.

At first, the word came intuitively; then I sat down to reflect and test it further. I started with a mind-map and all sorts of connections arose:

  • flow of writing – ink, words on a page, lines
  • flow of ideas – associations, imagery, symbols, poetry
  • flow of energy – water, breath, blood, tides, oceans, yoga, chi, chakras
  • sacred flow – mandalas, Jung, archetypes, sacred geometry, alchemy
  • shapes and movement – flow of a dress, narrative, stanzas, brushstrokes, dancing
  • productivity – mind-maps, flow charts

Exploring with Pinterest I found more connections and associations, many tapping into special experiences and key symbols, like all was gathering around this word as a focal point for now and into the future picking up on the energy of the past.

So what’s flow all about really?

It’s about capturing the creative moment, being in the energy of it and enacting this.

It’s what you see, what you notice on a walk, looking up and around you. It’s what you pick up from the beach, it’s what you find on the bed of the sea-shore as you dive beneath the shallow waves.

8 shell 2

It’s shells, rocks, birds, trees, the sound of cicadas in the background, aboriginal carvings, ancient landscapes, your feet in the sand, your skin in the water.

It’s what you choose to capture in a photograph or in a series of ink marks on a page. It’s what you select or craft to share with the world in various ways like social media, blogging or publishing

It’s what comes to you – symbols, associations, ideas – what you notice and connect, and the process and product of what you do with what comes.

It’s the energy kindled inside of you and the creative parts of you sparking again. It’s the promise of engagement with a wider flow of chakras, shakti, chi, oracles and your place in the energy of the world.

It’s knowing that the steps to get there are within reach, knowing that you have the know-how, that you recognise the pieces and components to connect and focus on from the sequence of days and years you’ve already traversed and invested your time and energy in. You know you’ve just got to harness this in a productive way and find the flame to ignite it all.

As Danielle LaPorte says in What it really means to go with the flow

Going with the flow isn’t about being passive or lazy. It’s not about just letting things happen “to you”. It’s not aimless wandering. It’s a co-creative act.

“The flow” is the ocean of cosmic intelligence. It’s the substance that carries the whole shebang. The flow is life energy itself.

Going with the flow is responding to cues from the universe. When you go with the flow, you’re surfing Life force. It’s about wakeful trust and total collaboration with what’s showing up for you.”

It looks like an exciting journey with my word of the year in 2015. I know others have also chosen ‘flow’ as their word for the year and I look forward to sharing the journey with these special fellow travellers.

What words are showing up for you for this year and what are they suggesting? Would love to hear!

2015 planning


This past week, this year


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IMG_0869This past week was long and difficult. Monday last week started as it usually does – off to work, getting organised for the week and at this time, getting ready for Christmas celebrations and a final busy week before winding down for the festive season.

About 10am on that Monday, everything changed with the news of the siege close by in the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place. Like many other Sydney workers, I found myself in lockdown, then being evacuated, then unable to return to the workplace.

And emotionally connected to the unfolding events.

The overwhelming feelings were of horror for the hostages and intense terror for their helplessness and fate. Like much of the country, I watched for hours into the night, breath held in a surreal landscape of fear of what might happen.

The early hours brought the news of the tragic outcome.

In the following days, the mood has been sombre, a different atmosphere on the train into the city, a sense of collective sadness. The flowers cascading their way down Martin Place reflecting this.

Many of us, it seems, have in our individual ways reflected, been touched, reassessed much.

For me, the return to my office and buying my morning coffee filled me with sudden and overwhelming emotion. The ordinary every day action of so many Sydney-siders suddenly poignant in the aftermath.

The sense of vulnerability, that it could have been me or so many people close to me. The harsh reality of its randomness.

The collective response has been heartening though sad: the growing sea of flowers reflecting the grief of so many individuals pieced together; the emerging sweet fragrance in the air; the multi-faith ceremonies and statements of support and the solidarity across religious boundaries that re-emphasise that we are all one community; the wave of support for Muslim women and others possibly affected by intolerance arising from this event.

IMG_0856I have engaged with Susannah Conway’s December Reflections, 2014 this month. It has been a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the year and as always with Susannah’s initiatives, a chance to reignite our own creativity and look around us with new eyes.

At the end of the week, the day 20 prompt in December Reflections was “this year was…”. I have to say this year has been intense for many reasons. But as the events of recent days have reminded me, there is much to be thankful for: supportive and loving family, friends, work colleagues; having a beautiful city in which to live and work; summer arriving; creativity always; books to read; maybe books to write; and the power of collective feeling..

This year and these past days have reminded me of what is of value.





Poetry: December


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You take the calm upon you
freely as a dress
flows in summer.

Something about sprinklers spinning
over lakes of grass.
Something like the cool hand
of the sun going down.

Each day is suddenly
a song you recognise
easily as fish swim.
What was that storm that raged
its way under winter’s skin?

Published: December, Terri Ryan  (now Connellan), 1989 poetry — Appears in: Mattoid , no. 35 1989; (p. 41)

Choiceless as a beach – a photo essay


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The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh – Gift from the Sea

It’s been the usual busy, a constant onslaught of work and travel and the ongoing struggle to create. The occasional day off work in the working week comes. A day to myself. A day to wander, to have coffee, to read, to walk the streets of my village, to scramble on the rocks, to stand in rock-pools, to look out at the water, to wade into the gentle waves lapping, to sit under a tree in the shade reading and watching others walk by and the boats, with the flutter of the intense sun on the water, the horizon out- stretched.

And to take photos, to snap the images of all this, the piece that can capture the release and the beauty of the place and the day and its utter choicelessness. No decisions, no pressure, no impatience. Just observing, seeing, watching what the walk, the day, the sea brings in its waves of moments and tides.

 IMG_96601 rock beach

4 feet in the water

5 feet in water & shells


7 shell 1

8 shell 2

9 shell 3

10 waves on the shore

11 sea treasures

12 reading on the beach

13 water bird on the shore

14 view backwards

I blog


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beach painting

“I blog. Writing about what I’ve been learning about, and my successes as well as my failures, has been an amazing tool for learning. I highly recommend it, even if you never want to be a writer or make a living as a blogger. Don’t worry about growing your audience, but just blog and share it with friends. Why? Because to write a blog post, you have to reflect on your life. You have to push yourself a little and experiment. You are motivated to learn something useful, so you can share it. You dig deeper and find new things you didn’t realize before. You hold yourself accountable for changes, because other people are watching.”

from Leo Babauta, ‘My Most Effective Learning Tools’, Zen Habits

I so wholeheartedly agree. As a blogger of some four or more years now, sometimes you do wonder why you bother. With the big gaps in my blogging patterns, because of managing a full-time job and a long commute, it’s so easy to give up, think of giving up, put my feet up and not blog but I love my blog and what I have created here over time and the act that is blogging.

It’s the ongoing creative heart of my days. Sometimes when it’s hard going at work, I find a few minutes to look at my blog, this almost other self it seems when I am in the work realm. I breathe more easily seeing my creative other self there in words and images on the screen, the pink blossoms shining out.

As Leo Babauta sums up, it’s about learning, about creativity, about reflecting and pushing and making deeper connections. It’s finding the right photograph for the words that you are pulling together. It drives you to take those photographs in the first place and see the world differently.

I had a rare mid-week day off from work recently and took a long walk around my local streets and beaches. I took 150 photographs on that walk of what I saw and experienced. I’m thinking how to pull them into a photo-essay here. The act of thinking about that is making me reflect on my love of where I live, the value of time to recharge, what standing in the water looking out means to me, the therapy of walking and the recharging power of sunshine and solitude.

Leo is so right when he says: “…to write a blog post you have to reflect on your life.”

Whether it’s what it’s like being an introvert, the importance of family history, the struggle to write and publish poetry, the value of what you choose to read and what it means to you, the symbols that keep recurring in your life that you are noticing, learning what sustains you, the travel to new places and what you feel there, thinking about how you can be more productive, the images that inspire you or the act of blogging itself, the act of catching those random thoughts and crafting them into a piece of writing, a blog post that becomes public is a creative, reflective and life-affirming act.

One of my earliest posts, ‘The value of howling into the wind‘, still holds so true in my experience. It’s so easy to fall into focusing on the size of your audience (or the lack of) and feeling like it’s just not reaching very far and has no point. But to blog, to write creatively and publicly is an act that has great personal value of heightening experience, digging, discovering, connecting, tuning in and shaping something that might not otherwise find itself.

Blogging might, and still does for me, feel like howling into the wind but it has its own intrinsic value of strength and uniqueness that just might be of value to others as well:

So ‘howling into the wind’ is about running with the wolves and the ‘longing for the wild’ as Estes calls it. It’s about stoking the creative fire with winds that might feel a bit uncomfortable and cold at first. It’s about the strength that might come from tuning into such intuitive sources, making connections and finding that to which we belong. And through whatever means – writing, photography, a business idea, a new perspective, the shape of a poem – forming something unique that is your voice that others may also tune into, relate to and take something away from. So let’s keep howling.

beach walking


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