After a thoroughly enjoyable eight-day trip to England, I have been back in the States for six days and am having trouble adjusting. My English friend and I had busy schedules each day, and full of fresh enthusiasm, I posted lots of photos on Facebook each evening. In the week that I have been home though, my mood pendulum has done a full swing from active exuberance to compulsively indulging in excess sleep, Netflix, and isolation. To be honest, I may have crashed a bit.
I know it is temporary (what isn’t?) so I am not too concerned. This spiritual jet lag always lasts longer that the physical jet lag. I find myself yet again facing the existential question, “Where am I and what am I doing here?” So I grab my laptop and head to the cafe to figure out the meaning of life, for now at least.
Walk – Water – Write – Watercolor
Decades ago these four words became my marching orders, the basic elements essential to my health and my joy.
I walked a lot while I was in England, ‘a lot’ compared to what I usually do at home. Of course, it was far more enticing walking along Basingstoke Canal than waiting at a red light in downtown Concord.
Nevertheless (isn’t that a great word? So useful when you want to gently disagree with yourself…), spring/summer has finally arrived in Concord, so a daily walk around town is pleasant here as well. I have become quite accustomed to using my trekking poles (they help with both balance and stamina, especially with my reduced eyesight), so I use one or both of them as long as I don’t need free hands to carry things such as groceries. Hidden perk: walking for pleasure still reminds me of my time in Hampshire, England.
(Aside for a few fond memories of walks…)
How on earth can anyone take that life-sustaining elixir for granted, and yet I do so all the time. I carry a water bottle with me (an old Honest Tea bottle actually, one which has now crossed the Atlantic twice), and also have a silicone travel straw that fits in a little case I carry in my bag. Even when I am polluting my body with my summer drug of choice, iced coffee, at least I am not polluting the oceans with single-use plastic straws.
(Did someone mention water?)
Honest to Pete, I am amazed at what I learn while writing. Whether I am using a keyboard or a vintage fountain pen, I swear that insights are stored inside my writing tool, and all I do is assist in the leakage. Not all ‘insights’ are profound of course – sometimes it amounts to a firm grasp of the obvious – but for me writing is effortless and provides guaranteed relief. A strange kind of pressure builds up in me if I go too long without stringing bits of alphabet seeds together. Even if I don’t reach a conclusion, I enjoy the stroll.
Sure looks wrong when I spell it like Americans do. Yes I am a self-confessed American Anglophile, but the main reason I instinctively spell it the English way is because I have so many art instruction books written by British artists, and now have so many British Facebook friends who are watercolourists. No matter how it is spelled, I do so love making a mess in a palette.
I sketched daily on my trip (a few examples appear throughout this post). I don’t have the ultimate travel kit perfected yet, but what I use works pretty well. (Okay, here is where I am going to lose every single reader who is not a painter, my apologies. We plein air artists are a quirky bunch.)
I took two palettes with me, couldn’t decide between them, and found when I was sketching in the airport or canal-side or in a café, the Expeditionary Art Palette (the size of a business card holder) was perfectly adequate. My other palette (a more common size travel palette) would have been better if I had been working in a larger format, but since my sketchbook was only 5” x 8” and the sketches were even smaller than that, the micro-palette was perfect. I loved the sketchbook I chose for the trip ( Global Arts Watercolor Journal ) because it was lightweight, had only 30 sheets, and the paper was heavy enough to handle wet washes well. This could easily be my favorite sketchbook for travel in the future.
Ahh, I feel better already…
Now that I have reminded myself of the Meaning of Life (Walk, Water, Write, Watercolour), I feel ready to center myself again when I leave this cafe and return home. The laundry is already packed up for my laundromat trip tomorrow (weather-dependent, I take the bus.) The piles of paper and receipts and art supplies and other treasures now strewn about the living room need to be lovingly stowed away, perhaps a pot of tea would enhance that process. Then I can settle back in to my beautiful life that I occasionally forget is everything I ever dreamed of.
I am only sad and lonely when I make up stories about other people’s imagined ease with life. How silly! Barely scratch the surface and you see they too struggle with challenges, real and imagined. When I see my imagination for the powerful force it is, I have the chance to also see the fictitious nature of most of my worries and regrets. For me, for now, the answer to every problem can be found somewhere in the neighborhood of walk, water, write, and watercolour. Better yet, when I can share any of those with another person– go for a walk together, out for coffee, write a blog post, or sketch with a new best friend on a bench by a canal– well, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
Do you have a small collection of simple words that serve as your North Star when you lose track of where and who you are? If so, share them in the comments section below, please!
And as always, thanks for pausing to join me — enjoy the rest of your day!