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Welcome to Musings – The Loom Room Blog

21 August, 2016

Have loom – will travel….

Filed under: Life,Nature,Weaving — Tags: , , , , , , — admin @ 1:33 pm

Isn’t it funny how certain things make a house feel like a home?

For me, as a weaver, it has to be a loom!  The French house in Gascony now has a working loom in it, and the wonderful and familiar smell of wool yarn means that France is now home!!

At the moment, I am in another temporary studio – #3, I think!  The salon, which will eventually be our rather lovely lounge (with mezzanine library!!) is home to a new-to-me Louet Spring loom.

Salon Studio 4 Salon Studio 3

You can see a little of the yarn stash I have managed to take over to France against the walls, but there is still a mountain of boxes to shift.  We had to buy a transit van to help move my books and yarns across the English Channel and have to be careful not to overload the poor thing too much!!  There are quite a few more trips to plan!!

It was great to put the loom together and to try it out, even if the first warp on was a 7.5m exhibition warp for the Nature In The Making exhibition which Agnes and I are doing in the Netherlands in November!  This is not normally to be recommended – usually I would suggest several short warps with different techniques to find out all the quirks and idiosyncracies of the loom before putting on an important warp.  But still, how many of us actually follow our own guidelines all the time???!!!

Happily, it was a relatively hassle-free introduction.  I’ll write more about it on another blog, but suffice it to say that the loom and I are working well together!

This trip to France also included plenty of physical interaction with the fabric of the building!!  Firstly, we cleaned out all the remnants of old furniture and tiles that had been left in the grange which will be my workshop, and swept it all through, leaving a blank canvas for the work to start in September.

Blog studio renovations 4 Blog studio renovations 3 Blog studio renovations 2 Blog studio renovations 1

It is another TARDIS.  It doesn’t look very large from the outside but the inside is deceptively large.

Then we removed partition walls in a bathroom to allow for two bathrooms – I’m a wicked sledge-hammer wielder – and took off all the floor and wall tiles.  We have also saved all the doors to be re-used.

Then I started weaving, and Graham continued with taking out all the old kitchen, leaving us with a single camping stove, a barbecue and a fridge.  The kitchen was somewhat over-engineered, with re-inforced steel concrete plinths for the worksurfaces, and brick walls, but we shall be able to re-use the cupboard doors and the drawer unit as everything is made with proper materials rather than chipboard rubbish!!

I am very excited, despite the ramifications of the vote in the UK to leave the EU which has impacted on our renovations fund somewhat drastically, meaning that we have to cut back on some of the things that we were hoping to do.  Basically it means that we will have to do several things in different stages instead of having all the work done at once.  Such is life.  It is amazing to us that we are actually in a position to live this dream, so if it takes longer to fulfil everything we planned, so be it….

The time spent in France this summer has been unbelievable, with amazing nocturnal natural fireworks on two occasions (electrical storms!), the fabulous array of summer night markets in villages and towns all around this part of France with their local produce and great music and dancing, the socialising with new friends and neighbours – we have landed in a really wonderful area for welcome, warmth and friendship!! – and the beautiful sunshine and views from our house over the changing fields mean that early mornings and late evenings are especially magical times for watching the landscape transform.

We have also been fascinated by the red squirrel nesting in the space between shutters and window in the attic, taking advantage of the woodpecker holes that appeared in the spring.  She had several babies and, although she has now vacated her nest, taking her babies with her (I think she didn’t like the demolition work happening a floor below her!), she is in the vicinity and we have been waking up to the lovely scene of red squirrels chasing each other round and round the trunks of trees outside the front windows.  Other wildlife has been sightings of two pairs of stunning Golden Orioles who flew in to take advantage of the bounty of our mulberry tree (tasty raspberry-like berries which we eat straight from the tree!).  The birds had the top fruit, we had the bottom fruit – a good balance!!  Bats are in abundance in the area, woodpeckers too, and plenty of other birdlife.

One amusing incident was when we had our first UK visitors.  When we first took over La Tuilerie, we found an old fold-up wooden chair which had been painted and repainted over the years and we decided to use it in our bathroom.  Whenever we were expecting visitors, whether Orange France, or friends, we put the chair at the bottom of the driveway, positioned so that it could be seen from both directions.  A couple of days before our visitors were expected, we saw a beautiful, but dead, pine marten to the left of our driveway on the edge of the road.  Its markings were just stunning – like the snow leopard and silver tabby crossed – although its little teeth were as sharp as needles and would certainly have inflicted a nasty bite!  We didn’t know whether to remove or leave it, and in the end decided it would be best to leave it.  Our visitors arrived, using the chair as signal locator and we had a lovely time!  After lunch, they had to leave and I went down to bring in the chair.  It had disappeared!!  Zut alors!  And so had the pine marten.  Had the local council come along, picked up the pine marten and taken our chair thinking that it too was for disposal?

We decided to pay a visit to the déchetterie – the local recycling centre – to see if they knew where the chair was.  I went indoors, sat down, and worked out how to tell the ouvrier what had happened.  You can imagine the scene – my French is not fluent, by any stretch of the imagination.  I practised the sentences for a while – probably at least 20 minutes – rehearsing over and over and changing the order of the sentences, trying to find the simplest way to explain the situation.  When I felt I probably had it as good as I was going to, we went to the déchetterie – only to find it had just closed!!  Happily we were able to speak to the lady in charge and I managed to make myself understood.

Not that it did any good, mind you….  The council don’t take their rubbish there and she didn’t know where the council rubbish tip was but advised us to go to the Mairie – by then well after 5, so too late for the day.  I confess I chickened out of trying to explain it all again the next day, so somewhere in a council tip near Nérac, there is a lovely old decrepit blue folding chair – unless it has found a new owner, of course!!

It won’t be long before you’ll be able to see the renovations in progress.  With as much of the preparation work done as we could do, things are now ready for the artisans to come back from their August break and start work in late September, fingers crossed!

It’s lovely being able to share this adventure with you virtually, and it would be wonderful if you could come and experience this marvellous place in real life.  In the meantime, until next time,

Happy Weaving!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 January, 2014

Reflections and Resolutions

At this time of year, it’s great to reflect back on the achievements and aspirations of the previous year.  Even more so for me this year, as this is the final week before I complete my masters degree.  In presenting my work for its final assessment, it is encumbent on me to look back over the entire duration of this course which for me was three years part-time study.  Part-time, my foot!!  Whilst I only attended university one day a week, this has been three years of concentrated study and development which has been challenging in many ways – not least getting back into debating and being intensely questioned as to my motives and reasons behind every decision – and also incredibly empowering.

I started off by thinking I knew what I wanted to do and how I would go about it, but soon had my certainties blown up into little pieces.  I had never learnt about art history or philosophical approaches to art.  I didn’t have the knowledge of the art world that my fellow students had – after all, why would I?  They all had an undergrad grounding in art whilst I had been a professional musician for so many years, then a weaver who learns as she goes.  I had no art training at school or in higher education, and had never really been interested in studying art or art history at any point in my life up til then.  So what a learning curve!!  It has been fascinating and illuminating.  I now find myself really appreciating cubism in a way I would never have dreamed of before, but it now makes sense to me!  And reading philosophers as diverse as Plato, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, even Derrida (!) to mention just a few of the philosophers and philosophies studied, has given me insights into my own thinking and has shown me how to challenge my beliefs about everything.

So what about the weaving?  Well, that too has changed immeasurably since the beginning of the course.  I still have been investigating geology through weave, but my emphasis changed from small scale to large scale, and looking at processes of erosion as well as those of plate tectonics and mountain building.  My approach is no longer as literal as it once was.  Ambiguity has become much more attractive, with viewers bringing their own interpretations into play as opposed to me telling them what they are looking at!  The work’s development has also closely tied in with my teaching and study group commitments.   In having specific areas to weave samples for sample exchanges, I had to bring a discipline to bear to incorporate work I was developing for that with the work that was developing in the masters process.  Far from being restrictive, this has been liberating.

I’ve talked before about the freedom that having to follow rules can bring.  This has certainly been the case during this process.  At every stage I had to make assessments, evaluations and decisions about what to continue forward.  I’ve always been a breadth person rather than an in-depth person, but that was challenged at every turn during the course.  And in having to make choices about what to focus on, I found myself becoming freer and more experimental in my approach, challenging the ways in which I work, daring to dream bigger than the loom, pushing myself to do things I would have discounted as being too demanding or way-out before.   And as I became more focused on the subject of my weaving, the freedom of experimenting within parameters brought new insights, new realisations and new techniques to the fore.

In a university course these days, you have to underpin your artistic practice with a view of the world – your philosophy – drawn from your own life experiences, and philosophy found through culture.  Mostly people look at western culture, but I found that I have a certain affinity with some eastern approaches.  I also discovered the phenomenological work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty – who looks at the body and mind in conjunction being the site of our experience of our world, as opposed to our consciousness alone.  This resonated with me, especially as I came to realise how little conscious awareness we have of our tactile sense.  Over a period of time, my focus became less one of weaving expertise and more one of physical engagement with textiles, especially experiencing textile art work through our hands which is usually now forbidden.  This led to a sudden realisation that we also are not allowed to engage physically with natural forms such as stalactites any more as the chemicals in our skin can adversely affect the development of these formations.   So gradually, my focus emerged.

Looking back over my journal for the three years, I have had so many great ideas that I can take forward and develop that I don’t think I will ever run out of things to try even in a very focused field of geology through weave, and one thing several viewers of my work have imprinted on me is that it can be translated into a number of different things depending on the experience of the viewer.  This I find really exciting and which will also lead me to develop the work in further ways…..

So whilst this time is a period of reflection, it is also a period of resolutions – to keep my mind open to possibilities which may seem fantastical, but that’s no reason not to try; to be open to what negative comments can teach me in a positive way; to keep on learning and growing with the same spirit of excitement and wonder that the last 3 years have given me; and to share what I learn and love with others as much as possible because we all learn and teach each other and you never know where the next ‘aha’ moment will emerge!

Happy Weaving!

 

24 July, 2011

How nature and jazz combine

Filed under: Art,Education,Life,Nature,Philosophy,Weaving — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 1:00 pm

I’ve been weaving several different pieces for two exhibitions over the last few weeks.  And while I weave, sometimes I listen to music on my ipod, and sometimes I weave in silence, letting thoughts run through my head.

One of these thoughts was about the weaving I’m doing at the moment.  I am weaving pieces inspired directly by nature, and as I was weaving, various things happened like knots in the yarn, or a sudden slub or a shaft not picking up correctly.  Now normally, I would stop, and sort each of these problems out, not wanting a blemish in my work.  That I equate to the oboe training – precise, clean, accurate, as perfect as possible in preparation and performance.  That is my perfectionist side.

But as I was about to get off the seat and sort one of these problems out, I suddenly realised that nature isn’t perfect.  Nature’s most amazing versatility comes from its blemishes, its accidents, its mutations.  It’s like jazz.

Jazz musicians don’t agonise over a wrong note.  They relish the opportunity to bring in unusual harmonies and enjoy the wandering path within the basic framework of their chordal structure.  That’s what nature does.  There are ‘bum’ notes all over the place in nature, part of the rich mosaic and randomness that we find so fascinating.

So I decided not to get up and sort out the ‘blemishes’ but to see what transpired further down the line in the finishing process.  This was a liberating decision for me.  Time to let out the tenor saxophonist of my soul, and push the analytical oboist to the back of my mind!

And you know what?  I soooo enjoyed the weaving.  I decided to make random decisions to change a weft yarn when one ran out, and just to go with sudden instinctual decisions.  It was like heaven!!  Instead of being controlled and having everything go according to plan, I just went with the flow and did whatever I felt like!!

Also, as you may know, I am a sample queen.  Well, as usual, I sampled.  But this time, the sample was woven at the end!

What??  Has she gone raving mad??!  Well, yes and no.

I decided that as this was to do with nature – and my deadlines were verrrrrry tight (inspiration doesn’t always come according to a timescale!)  I would just jump in and weave my ideas.  If they worked, wonderful and I could enter the work.  If not, well it didn’t matter, and I would use the ideas generated for further pieces in the future.  I always want a sample to show me what I’ve done, but I didn’t have the time to weave a sample, take it off the loom, finish it and then make adjustments, so I did what I never recommend people to do… I wove the project first and wove the sample (reference) piece at the end of the warp.  Hey ho….

Moral of the story – sometimes it pays to do things a different way.  Sometimes the sky doesn’t fall in because you don’t do things perfectly.  Sometimes it frees you up to do what you don’t usually do.

Have fun in your weaving – however you do it!!

17 July, 2011

Weaving – the design process

Filed under: Art,Education,Life,Nature,Weaving — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 1:00 pm

Today is a bitter/sweet day.  This morning, I waved my son off on his next big adventure – a career in the armed forces.  He’s now on his way to boot camp – or Phase I training as the Army like to call it!  An intensive 14 weeks to see how he shapes up.  I know he will come back from that a different man with new friends who he will have to rely on for his life, and vice versa.

My way of coping with emotional times is to immerse myself in weaving.  Thankfully, I have a project on hand that requires all my brain power to work out (and no obvious comments there, folks! LOL)  This is one of the pieces that I mentioned about for the Elements exhibition in Aberdeen (Fabric of the Land).  Whether this will work out, I don’t know.  It’s a new adventure for me, and as usual, I am feeling my way blindfolded along the path.

Which leads me to today’s blog.  A fellow weaver told me recently that I should write about how I plan my pieces because it’s not a usual way – whatever ‘usual’ means….  So here goes.

Nature is generally my inspiration, and this time it is a photo of a foreshore where the sea has eroded the rock away in parallel lines with the sand between.  It’s dramatic, and very dimensional.  This is the kind of challenge that I like.  I don’t have a clue how I’m going to achieve the piece, but I know that I want to weave it.  So I mull it over for a while.  This can take anything from a day to 3 or more weeks.  This particular piece I have only really considered for a couple of weeks, when I realised that I wasn’t particularly enjoying the planning process for another piece.  If I don’t enjoy the planning process – if it doesn’t spark my mind – then I know it’ll be a dismal failure.

I don’t mind failure – in fact, I need failure to help me work out what I do want – and usually failures point the way to another project later on, but I know in my gut when something is going to be a ‘dog’ on the loom.  So I listened to my gut and abandoned the first project.

I had a vague idea that to create the amount of dimensional effect I wanted, I would need to weave areas in double cloth, with one layer shrinking, and the other layer not.  So far so good.  But I didn’t want the double cloth areas to be straight lines vertically – I wanted a certain amount of movement as nature would have.  So this led to a lot of thinking about how to achieve this on my 24shaft AVL Compu-Dobby I loom.

I’m not generally a stripes person, but I realised that if I wanted areas to be sand inbetween the eroded rocks, then I would need warp stripes, but how to blend that in with the rocks and generate a bit of movement?  In the end, I settled on small amounts of block weaves either side of the ‘rock’ double cloth which would allow me to modulate how the sections are woven.

Now for the serendipity.  The weaving is going well – I have 3 panels of 2m long and 38″ wide to weave.  That bit’s the easy bit.  After that comes the ‘suck it and see’ bit when I put it into the washing machine and then the tumble dryer and see what happens.  Gulp!!

I have given myself permission to fail, and not to have to enter it for the exhibition if I don’t want to.  We had to submit proposals (maximum 3) to the organisers at the beginning of July, and although I put down three pieces, if this doesn’t work, I shall contact them and notify them that I’ll only be submitting 2 or 1 for selection.  Selection is on 1st August, and because I’m not in Scotland, I can send images by post before the deadline, so if I’m not happy with the results, I will only send the ones I have.

The good thing about this is that I don’t have to submit the finished articles unless they’re selected.  The bad thing is that everything hinges on my images.  Good images and I might stand a chance.  Bad images and none of my pieces will even be selected.  But that’s how it goes.

What I am really pumped up about is that it has forced me to think in a different way and I know that will lead to something I’m pleased with, whether that’s with this piece or further down the line…

So, if my friend thinks this is a different way of working, will you please tell me how you plan things?  How we think and work out problems is a fascinating study and it’d be great to hear how your mind works!

Till next time, happy weaving!!

16 June, 2010

Regular woven texture blog by request

In some of my posts, I have lightly touched on some of the weaving research into texture that I have been focussing on in the past 2 years, and which are the subject of some of the lectures that I am giving at the Complex Weavers’ Seminars and also at HGA’s Convergence 2010 in Albuquerque in July this year (HGA – Handweavers’ Guild of America).  That has piqued the curiosity of some of my blog readers, and also my recent students, who have seen texture samples strewn all over the studio as I put together my presentations.  So firstly, thank you so much for your input and questions.

In response to these requests, I have decided to put together a regular blog, published every Wednesday or as near to a Wednesday as I can get it.  I don’t have updates automated yet, so I write them in real time.  Life sometimes gets in the way and delays publication, but that is something I am going to look at in the autumn.

In the meantime, I thought I would start with some practical steps for beginners to introduce texture into their work. 

But before I do that, if you don’t know what I do and why (and why should you?!), here’s a quick bit of background.  I’ve been weaving since 1991, and got obsessed almost immediately.  That’s one of the amazing things about weaving – it’s something that can really grab you and engage your mind and body fully.  Right from the start, I always loved creating images or abstracting design ideas from a picture that I could translate into weaving and this was magnified when a huge industrial jacquard loom came into my life in 2002 (see my website for further details!).  After she arrived, and I had learnt how to use her, I acquired 4 other baby jacquard looms that I use for teaching looms.  Then I was given a book on aerial and satellite images of the earth, and that was it.  I knew what it was I wanted to do with my weaving and my life – translate the textures of nature into works of woven art – artwork that would rise up from the flat surface of the fabric to depict the physical aspects of nature.  I call it weaving in 2 1/2 dimensions as opposed to 3-dimensional work which brings to mind 3-dimensional sculptures. 

To that end, I have been delving into old weaving treatises, visiting archive collections, scouring new publications, badgering fellow weavers, learning all I can about how to create these wonderful natural textures in weaving.  And I am getting some effective and great results!  It is an exciting exploration which has me getting up in the morning eager to get to the loom, or the computer, or visit a museum to find out more.  And more than that, I want to share what I find so that other people can start from further along the research path and have great fun creating their own textural weaving.  I belong to the Complex Weavers study group in Collapse, Pleat and Bump, in which individual members research something that interests them, weaves some samples and shares the information with the group, and that has led to some ideas which I have taken further, which can then feed back into the group for someone else to take and develop some more.

So this blog is extending that process of exploration and sharing to a wider group.  I hope you enjoy the content.  Next week I shall, as promised, begin with some simple steps to creating texture in your weaving whatever sort of loom you have.  In the meantime, please do let me know your thoughts, and what sort of information you would like to see included in these blog posts. 

E: stacey@theloomroom.co.uk

5 May, 2010

Weaving Volcanoes

Filed under: Art,Education,Weaving — Tags: , , , , , , , — admin @ 8:35 am

You’d have thought we’d all have had enough of volcanoes just recently, wouldn’t you?  But it seems I just can’t help myself!  I’m now weaving them!  Yesterday it was dunes and waves, today it’s volcanoes! 

I was watching The Wonders of the Solar System on BBC iplayer last night – The Thin Blue Line episode – and I was struck time again by the textures of both volcanoes and their inverted form, craters.  The creasing, pleating and puckering on the side walls, the pinnacle or central depression. 

I looked back through some textural weaving samples I’ve done previously, and decided I could adapt them into volcanoes, so that’s my challenge for the day.  If successful, I’ll show them alongside the dunes and waves in my lectures in Complex Weavers seminars and Convergence, the Handweavers Guild of America’s biennial conference, at Albequerque this July.  If they’re not successful, I’ll try again with a different technique!!

 Nature is just wonderful for inspiration – as is the BBC!  And National Geographic, and Discovery Channel….  It’s amazing any work gets done with all this beauty around us.  All we have to do is look.

And then work out a way to weave it!

18 October, 2009

Autumn

Autumn is most definitely with us now.  In the last two weeks, the weather has got progressively colder, and the days shorter, although we have only had one real day of rain here in the middle of England.  The sun is much lower in the sky and walking Charlie in the mornings is a little more dangerous when on the road walking east.  The trees are beautiful this year – still with the leaves on but changing into glorious shades of reds, oranges and yellows before spilling down onto the paths, fields and roads.  The American term ‘fall’ aptly describes the physicality of the season, but doesn’t do justice, in my mind, to the amazing kaleidoscope of colours, scents and textures of this time of year.  Autumn is a much more imaginative word, conjuring up images of past years, and memories of kicking through the leaves, bobbing for apples, lighting the fire for the first time for 6 months, closing the curtains against the darkening sky, and curling up with a book and a cup of tea – even crumpets and poached eggs.  All these thoughts are summoned to my mind by the wonderful word Autumn.

I’m not one for clearing away the fallen leaves, although I have a neighbour who religiously sweeps up the leaves on every dry day.  Too much like hard work to me!! And also, I like to think that I’m protecting the ground against the harshness of frosts and feeding the soil at the same time!  Obviously, once the leaves on the drive get wet, they become slippery, and that’s not a good thing.  But I’d rather wait until they are wet and then scoop them to one side of the drive.  There’s nothing quite like that swishy, crunchy sound of walking up the drive when the leaves are on the ground in dry weather!  This morning’s walk with Charlie was up the opposite side of the valley, and there was a slight mist, giving the further trees and church roof in the next village of Checkley that romantic look so well described by Jane Austen in her novels.  The sun was lowish, but high enough to shorten the shadows so that they didn’t overwhelm the scene.  Yet again, I stood and appreciated the wonderful countryside in which I have the good fortune to live. 

Last weekend I was down near the south coast, on the borders of Hampshire and Dorset, at a place on the edge of the New Forest called Ringwood.  Years ago, when working for the Bournemouth Orchestras, I would drive past Ringwood on a twice-weekly basis.  This time of year the New Forest is stunning.  I was giving a talk at the New Forest Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, and was staying with a fellow weaver, Dawn Willey, and her husband, Alan, in Verwood.  As Dawn and I drove to the meeting on the Saturday morning, another beautiful day like today, the sun illuminated the spiders’ webs on the low bushes along the verges.  It was like looking at stick on stick of candy floss!  Stunning!

Although we’re all so busy chasing our tails these days, nature has the power to stop us in our tracks and just breathe deeply, breathing in the beauty and scents, and absorbing the wondrous world that is ours, available whenever we allow ourselves to stop and look.

21 June, 2009

Seeing Things with Fresh Eyes

Filed under: Life,Psychology — Tags: , , — admin @ 3:31 pm

Several things have conspired towards today’s blog topic, the way life sometimes does.  Firstly we had a summer barbeque which forced me to look at our house and garden through another’s eyes – actually around 35 others’ eyes – and has prompted a makeover of the garden at least!  

Then, on one soft morning when the sun was shining at an angle into our patio garden, the bricks on the workshop looked very different – the same old bricks but with their patina of soft green, sage green, emerald green, yellow, orange, pink and peach highlighted so that I saw them as if for the first time.  They were gorgeous and now I look at that wall with a more appreciative eye. 

 Another early morning with my first cup of tea, this time a grey morning, the light shining through the lounge window illuminated my bare foot as I sat there reading (a wonderful book by Lawrence Durrell called Bitter Lemons Of Cyprus) with my leg lolling on the arm of the chair, and showed in sharp relief all the tiny little lines just below the inside ankle of my foot and revealed a complexity of pattern that is truly amazing.  And I thought I knew my body!  I am now appreciating my feet more than before!!

And then today, seeing a friend for the first time in several months was a real shock.  She suffered from a virus around Christmas time and it went to her brain.  She is now a different person.  She shakes, she is understandably depressed, and more, no-one seems to know what is wrong.  All anyone knows is that the virus attacked her brain.  And she was a lively, lovely artistic girl in her early 20s who was set to become a model.  Now it is all she can do to get through the day.  She can’t light her own cigarette, she has to drink through a straw because she shakes so much, and she bursts into tears in frustration at her own lack of control. 

Seeing her has made me take a hard look at my own life and realise just how blessed and fortunate I am.  All my little niggles are negligible and petty against her sudden change of fortunes, my day to day routine a wondrous journey against the devastation of her life.  In her eyes I have a charmed existence. 

I guess I have two things to express today – one, that in seeing something well known in a suddenly different light, one can never go back to seeing it again in the old way, so as we get older, our lives should become richer in terms of experiencing life and seeing beauty in nature and other people.  The other is that we should never, ever, take our lives and ourselves for granted, for sometimes inexplicable things can happen totally out of the blue and change everything we knew. 

15 February, 2009

The Power of Words

Filed under: Life,Philosophy,Psychology,Teaching,Weaving — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 8:10 pm

I love words.  They have the power to harm or to heal, to empower or to reduce, to inspire or to deflate. 

I try to write a journal most days and I do that in the mornings, before the day’s tasks and “must dos” get in the way.  It’s a stream of consciousness thing – quite often it can be the events of the previous day – or thoughts I’ve had whilst out walking Charlie (my dog) in the fields.  This morning I exchanged casual comments with a couple of people whilst walking along the pavement.  The first was a chatty, friendly ‘your dog is just gorgeous’ comment, guaranteed to make me smile and feel great! The second was with a neighbour.  It was just comparing the weather of today, beautiful, sunny but cold, with yesterday’s freezing, windy rain and yet, a chance comment of my neighbour’s, saying he was far too sensible to get caught in yesterday’s weather (unlike me)had me chuntering away to myself as Charlie and I continued our walk.  Somehow I had felt that comment as a reflection on my intelligence and I thought of all the clever responses I could have made which would have left him suitably chastened (or not!) when I suddenly pulled myself up short. 

Why was I feeling so defensive?  What was I doing, allowing a probably innocent if perhaps thoughtless comment churn up my stomach and bring me down when I should be enjoying the beauty of the day around me?   It was quite an effort to move my thoughts away from the negative reaction I was experiencing and direct them into appreciative appraisal of the sun and shadows on the fields, the beauty of the remaining leaves gently fluttering down to earth, the easy elegance of Charlie running across the fields.  But once I had focussed my attention on positive things that were happening right now, I felt so much better and my thoughts then turned to a sudden inspiration for another book idea. 

When I got home I started thinking about how quickly I had allowed myself to be brought down and that it took a focussed determined effort to pick myself back up again and turn my thoughts to positive things, and I realised how much we are affected by seemingly random or thoughtless comments.  As a teacher, it is something I’m always aware of when chatting to students.  As a student, I know how vulnerable and defensive I feel when trying something outside my comfort zone, and in that frame of mind how easily one can go from being excited to being depressed and feeling worthless and useless. 

It also made me reflect on how easily close relationships can change from happy and open to defensive, usually by a simple misunderstanding and how it is so true that to ensure good communication we need to seek first to understand, and then to be understood.  So, for today at least, I am going to try to listen first of all, then think before I speak…..