April: Into the swing of things
Updated: Apr 17
February had its leap, March involved retreating into the garden, now April is for swinging! Not that kind. More like the old fashioned rope swing from a tree kind...
In the spirit of home and garden improvement my aim for April was to construct a rope swing from a tree branch near the Treehouse Art Studio. I’ve had my eye on a tree that seems to lend itself perfectly to a swing frame for sometime, plotting a basic but robust rope and wooden plank swing. I had been looking up methods for fixing and tying some left over hemp rope and I also must have dropped numerous hints to the hubby, as to my delight, we now have a wonderful new swing and I cannot actually take any credit for it. I’ve always loved swings and whenever I sit on one I silently recite the Sterophonics ‘Not Up To You’ lyric: “how do you know your last swing weren’t your last for good” and lament over the possibility that it could genuinely be the last time, and how would I know and what a shame it would be. That may seem a bit morbid but it actually encourages me to soak up the moment and the pure joy of swishing through the air. There is something about sitting on a swing that has always felt adventurous to me, I suppose it takes me back to childhood, when going to the park probably was an adventure. However, with all the fun plans we had for adventuring this spring on hold, the new swing is a welcome reminder of that sense of adventure that is missing during these less thrilling times owing to our commitment to stay home. When the time comes to start making such plans again, I wonder how it will feel to move on. Whatever the future holds, when I sit on the beautifully crafted swing (there are actually two - one for baby and one for me) I’ll always be aware of the period of time in which they were made and I hope that serves as a reminder of how life as we know it can change in a moment; impermanence, it seems, might be the only guarantee.
Although somewhat daunted by the prospect, I set myself the task of writing one blog a month, not for any particular reason, mainly for the thrill of trying something new. Here we are in April, my third blog in as many months and I realise I have quite enjoyed the task thus far. With the governments plea for the nation to stay home and stay safe, it has been helpful to have a focus and distraction from all the household chores that I could otherwise be completing. Despite this, it has still been a struggle to know how to approach this months blog. Not least am I new to blog writing, but faced with these new and challenging times I’ve questioned whether it would be appropriate or helpful to write anything at all. Then I remembered my intention when starting the blog, to simply share thoughts on nature, therapy and art for the pleasure of doing so. Hence here I am, trying, wondering, and hoping to keep things simple.
During this period I have noticed the language being used to describe the pandemic. We are becoming so familiar with certain phrases, suddenly everything is “unprecedented” and “challenging” or “strange” and social media is flooded with expressions of concern and reminders to stay safe and well. Mostly these messages are a comfort, although collectively they serve as a reminder of our vulnerability and mortality. It seems that, when faced with a crisis, the phrases and slogans that we recognise are easier to digest and easier to offer out when we just don’t know what else to say. This is where the arts really come into their own as a means of investigating our emotional response and wellbeing. The arts can allow us to move beyond words, providing deep individual expressions of feeling, a rich ‘visual vocabulary’ if you like, can be a powerful one when our dialogue is limited. I’ve been thinking about what it means to be an artist right now, what the purpose of artmaking might be for some: a time-filling hobby or a serious urgency for self-expression? I believe all modes of creativity have their place, and I for one have indulged in many different ways of using art in my life. I often flitter between painting, drawing and hobby crafts, sometimes feeling like more of a dabbler than a bona fide artist. At this time of year I usually start planning a trip to London to visit the latest exhibitions, I particularly enjoy the annual Summer Show at the Royal Academy of Art. But now I’m thinking about what the exhibition will look like next year, how the submissions may shed light upon these times. Perhaps there will be a flurry of submissions for next years show as new artists emerge from the school of self-isolation. And how do I know, in the spirit of the the Stereophonics, if my last exhibition weren’t my last for good?
To engage with the arts currently, as an observer or maker, may mean exploring technology to digitally access galleries or new platforms for being creative. I’m currently exploring how best to translate Art Psychotherapy into an online service. There are pros and cons of course, but online therapy offers us a way forward while the nation adjusts to social/physical distance guidelines. In my next blog I will focus on online therapy as a treatment option for pandemic fear and anxiety. In the meantime, I’ll end with a recent image created while testing different artmaking apps on the iPad, with added text - a beautiful poem about Trees by Joyce Kilmer from the book ‘Trees and Other Poems’.