There will always be a time for mourning and a time for dancing.
It’s difficult to put out a new blog post without thinking how trivial the content may be when weighed against the effects of what’s happening to the Ukrainian people; the horror of it being felt by all who are witnessing it through the eyes of the media. I’m not in a position to do anything much, other than continue to pray incessantly for their welfare (and for the Russians too), for offers of help to keep coming, for an end to this suffering… for this madman’s heart to be softened and his crime against peace that is rocking the world to cease.
Therefore, it’s with trepidation that I journey on in search of my inner sanctuary in penning this post for February, albeit a day late because the month simply ran out too quickly.
I do count myself fortunate that, since learning of ARCADE’s creative workshops, which encourage personal story-telling about our lives in Scarborough, I’ve been enabled to speak more openly about my secret self through my writing. The workshops allow space to explore our stories through interactive creative exercises and in the sharing of our memories about events and places where we have felt strong emotions and connections, thus enabling us to express our story in a raw yet creative way.
I have several pieces of work in progress to offer to the #scarboroughstories project site and feel compelled to be open and honest about my emotions, especially regarding aspects of my recovery from a breakdown in 2020, which so much of my writing has led me back to. February’s blog, therefore, feels a little self-indulgent in that respect.
I do think that because mental health issues in general are more prominent as a result of the pandemic pandemonium, the need to talk openly about our experiences is fundamental to our recovery. I’ve always found creativity to be a life-saver when it comes to my own mental health issues, more so since discovering how fragile my mind really is, and it’s only now, 18 months on, that I am able to give voice to some of the scarier moments.
A poem I drafted many years ago that I’ve never shared before came to mind as I was considering the theme of the blog. It tells of my bi-polar tendencies which I think adds another perspective to the title of this post.
Mood Swinging through the Day
I’m a pale-grey ghost, empty of feelings, drifting through dreams with no meaning. I blend into the background of life Where nobody sees, hears or speaks to me. I’m swallowed up in this dull day going through the motions in drizzle and fog. Like the damp sodden linen rotting on the line, forgotten and lonely, my life is undone. I’m a vibrant soul, oozing red energy, majestic in stature and stance, strutting proudly to the forefront of life where everyone sees, hears and speaks to me. I’m showered with blessings this day saturated in rainbows and sunshine. Like the sparkling white linen dancing in the sun, reinvented, my life has begun. *
Onward now to the first creative writing workshop run by ARCADE and led by Shan Barker and Allie Watt of Beach Hut Theatre Company on 5th February, where the leaders ‘saw participants explore their own personal stories through various exercises such as using a memory; focusing on an object or responding to a sense of place regarding Scarborough itself’ (Arcade).
On the Cinder Track (from Station Lane Gate, Burniston towards Cober Hill, Cloughton)
Writing from a memory of my first walk on this part of the Cinder Track (2021) during my recovery from that dark period where I had considered (and planned) suicide (2020). I realised I had let go of God during that time and this particular walk was the place where I acknowledged that and wholly appreciated that He had not let go of me.
I am alive! Daffodils are dancing along the verge, spring lambs leaping in the field and the distant sea is resting in stillness. I’m in a biblical place of green pastures and still waters, walking with Jesus. My breathless joy forces me to stop, stretch out my arms to the blue silent sky and sing, sing, sing out my soul in a song of praise. I am alive!
One thing I learned from the experience of breaking down is that I can now recognise my triggers early and take positive steps to steer myself away from the dark places. It’s tough but it’s working… so far.
The second workshop I attended, on 25th February, was Poetry and Textiles, this time led by Jayne Shipley with Allie Watt supporting. The idea behind this workshop was to tell your story (stories) through ‘collecting words and phrases from poems, stories and texts about our seaside town to create a new poem or tale then explore textile and embroidery techniques, adding our words to pieces of fabric (tell-tales) and working with others to create a huge fabric sail’.
While waiting for the workshop to commence I browsed the resources laid out on the table and came across a linen shift dress with the words of a poem sewn into it (Jayne’s own creation). I was inspired by her poetry and wrote the following piece about my mother-in-law, who had passed away peacefully the previous day. The detail is not exact. These words simply came from my heart to the page.
Breathing in Waves It’s a loss we’d expected for so long whilst watching you waste away, little by little, until your shrinking memories of happier days vanished in your fading light. Yet, yesterday, when the end came, we were not prepared for it. Not really. Though we’d sat at your bedside for many days as you slumbered deep inside your dreams of childhood (easier to recall than present days passing’s we’d said). Then, in one sudden moment, your shuddering breath stopped and the life left in you slipped away. We stared in disbelief then fell on our knees to weep at your feet.
This sad start to my writing was surely an emotion I needed to expel before embarking on what was a lively, enlightening morning spent sharing words and personal stories in a warm and friendly environment of like-minded creatives. I stole the title for the prosaic piece from my, as yet unfinished, textile creation, though that tells of a different, more uplifting, Scarborough tale to potentially share on my next blog post.
I wonder if you can guess the location in Scarborough for the next musing, inspired by one of the morning’s exercises.
Paradise I’m halfway down from the hill-top, on a bench overlooking the sea. All is tranquil and I am alone, soaking up the silence, watching the gentle waves lapping towards the shore. A noiseless plane, high in the sky, paints a feather trail of white across the turquoise sky and I take a deep breath in… and a slow breath out again. A single squawking seagull breaks into the silence, heads for the beach to nose-dive the fishermen’s morning catch; A dog-walker sets his pooch free to yap, yap, yap its shrill tone at the seagulls flocking in to share in the haul. I toss the remains of my coffee, twist the cup back onto my flask, pick up my belongings and go searching for another paradise... under a different piece of sky.
As already said, I’ll display and talk about my textile story ‘breathing in waves’ next time as the creation is still in progress. I’m rather slow at sewing – not my favourite thing but, to my surprise, I was completely absorbed in the process of it. I hope you will be too.
With love for the journey
Sharing a little joy:
I’ve had some feedback from my short stories collection, A Smattering of Alice, which has been encouraging, simply because I compiled and completed this collection during my recovery in 2021 and found it difficult to write from my own emotional truths within these fictional stories. One comment in particular gave me such a buzz that I thought I’d share it with you: The reader said: ‘It is an extraordinary work. In many ways quite challenging/disturbing/thought-provoking but writing of the highest calibre – it is beautifully and cleverly crafted and an extraordinary work.’ (Lel Meleyal)
If you are interested in purchasing a copy of the illustrated paperback for £6 (plus £1.50 towards p&p in the UK), please contact me via the welcome page for more info on how to order. Thank you.
There will always be a time for mourning and a time for dancing.