Cafe Wisdom: When The Loft is Between Inspirations…

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.

Walk

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.

UK- Canal photo

Basingstoke Canal

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…)

UK- Cafe photo

La Creperie, Odiham, UK

UK- Cafe ptg

La Creperie a la moi

Water

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?)

UK- Worthing beach trio of men

Worthing seaside 

UK- Day 2 Canal trip

Cream Tea Canal Cruise

Write

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.

Watercolor/Watercolour

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.)

UK- 2 palettes

I took both on this trip, used the smaller one most of the time.

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.

UK- Canal May 14th

Dearest memory, the last day, lazing on a bench by the canal with my friend

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!

About Bobbie Herron

I sit here in my loft studio, surrounded by watercolor brushes and paints, fountain pens, sketchbooks, journals- wanting more than anything to write and paint at the same time. I am the fourth generation of journal-keeping women, starting in 1862, and I have read their words and between their lines. This blog was inevitable: thoughts on the unsung glory of women whose lives were recorded and transformed through their writing and art.
This entry was posted in Cafe Wisdom, Sketchbooks, Views from Aloft, Watercolor. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Cafe Wisdom: When The Loft is Between Inspirations…

  1. My phrase is “drawing strength” – which means “I draw strength from drawing” and also “drawing *is* my strength”. And I find drawing helps me as the situation fits: it can be a form of meditation or a way of remembering; sometimes it is what I intended, more often it surprises me. Even if I only manage a few doodles and it’s been a rotten day- the little drawing will make me smile and think “Well, even if I achieved little else, I did that today.” It never fails to amaze me that the most hasty of sketches can bring a time and a place and how I was feeling sharply into focus. I’m sure your sketches do the same for you Bobbie. Great article.

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  2. adrianne2016 says:

    Bobbie, such a sweet post! Of course you need to rest after such an active trip! We certainly do all have challenges. Great reminder to focus on our core values. Lately I’ve been using the “chop wood, carry water” mantra when everything seems too boring. “One step at a time.” “Everything is already OK.” “Stay in the moment.” Also, “eat an apple, go for a walk” is often the cure for the blahs. And finally, “Paint, paint, paint!” I just cycle through them until I find one that comforts!

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  3. Sandy Ray says:

    “Keep it simple” and “no matter what is going on, there is always someone worse off as well as someone better off than I am.” Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Bobbie.

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  4. Again a great post you shared with us and something to think about. I have not yet something like my own ‘mantra’ to bring me back into my own Zen zone but I know the best thing to do is to shut my thoughts down go over to my studio even not knowing or not in the mood to do anything and just see what comes and the moment I start doing something/anything I know again why and I feel better.
    I recognize the feeling after a holiday and trying to get back into the ‘normal’ life , where was I and what was I doing before I left …
    It is so supporting to read your story , thanks !

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