Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Lovely Bones

Sometimes I feel, how do I describe this correctly...like I just want to walk out into the woods without a coat and never come back.

When I was in high school, it was my secret dream to some day be a famous author. Once I accomplished this, it was my thought, I would live in a small cabin, full of books, on a hillside in some Norwegian fjord with a sheep dog and never talk to anyone. Basically, I guess, I was planning to be a famous recluse.

Those were definitely years when I just wanted to be left alone. Everyone was so busy planning their futures and adventures and I just wanted some peace and quiet. Physical headspace. A place beyond expectations and pressure and my peers. It was easier for me to imagine a life of being pre-occupied with the weather and weird obsessions, without other people around, than going to college and actually making friends and doing things.

There's always been a big part of me that just wants to wander aimlessly and make things that mean absolutely nothing and have no discernible purpose.

There are still times when I wonder if I am the least grounded person I know.

I've always been so in my head, out of touch with reality, that I can barely function.

So, I over-compensate, I put a lot of effort into being the kind of person I'd like to be: dynamic, conscientious, organized, social, focused. Drawing up plans and lists, because I hate plans and never follow lists. Marking things in my calendar, though all I really want is endless days of blank pages.

Now,  I know I live on a small Island on the edge of a vast ocean, and frankly, it seems like that should be enough room for any aspiring recluse, but because this is an internal conflict, turns out the place in space doesn't seem to matter as much as I once thought. I imagine my famous recluse incarnation would have suffered from terrible writer's block and lack of focus. She would have more likely kept a weather journal than written a great novel, and therein laid the fault of that plan, I suppose.

These two opposing forces sometimes lead to the worst enemy of both fruitful idle time and having a lot of s*** to accomplish. Used to be that I would procrastinate with a book, these days I sit down on the computer, work for a while and then start tinkering around.

The truth is that I need friends and projects and hard work to keep me grounded to reality and enjoying what I've got, and that I need actual idle time, designated, away from the drawing board, from the chore list, to disengage and re-focus this busy mind of mine that I mentioned in my last post. Meditation helps, writing this blog actually helps, but most importantly, the state of wander helps.

Letting my hands and feet move without a designated purpose.

My high school-self did intuitively know that it would be better if I landed somewhere with wide open space and room to roam, away from the cities that at the time still seemed so appealing to me.

Aside from walking, when the pressure of doing and fussing and have-tos gets to be too much, I usually channel it into weird crafts. Throughout my teens and twenties, I made insanely intricate collage-covers for journals. It was the only craft I ever did until I started working with leather. Something about cutting and pasting and finding phrases filled me with more satisfaction, than writing in those journals ever did.

Last year, between Christmas and new year's I went through a phase of making dozens of tiny animals out of paper clay. They were kind of ugly and served no purpose and gave me immense pleasure.

The other night, at our dinner table, while waiting for the canner to get up to the right pressure:
Me: "I enjoy water-coloring, even though I'm not any good at it...I actually really enjoy doing pointless crafts."
C: "Pointless?"
Me: "Like doing something that's not at all productive."
C: "Like when you're just doing something for fun?"

This conversation is pretty indicative of the pitfalls of feeling like your creative time has to always be working towards something. When my inspiration ebbs, I need to remind myself to make terrible water-color sketches and take bike rides and walks without a purpose.

Just yesterday, I came back with a head full of ideas, ready to can my bone broth, a food that binds you to the earth like no other, to make yet another dinner, to have another stab at work, to write letters and make calls...

"Why is it," a reader asked in response to the meditation post "that something that enriches our lives so much, takes such discipline to stick with?"

Why indeed? 


  1. i think when something that enriches our lives requires encountering our emotional discomfort, as well as facing inner critic voices that say we shouldn't be focusing on ourselves or should otherwise be productive...well, it's a pretty good equation for avoidance.

    one thing that is working for me, is re-educating my critic, while at the same time empowering my... 'sacred wild feminine'. (ha! All. Good. Words. Destroyed.). no really...empowering the part of me that understands the richness in the chaotic, unbound, imaginal realm. i don't know what your own path would be towards that, but i see you doing some of the things i do too...writing about it, nourishing your soul with those walks, paying attention to your body with bone broth...i see that you're already fully engaged in the wrestling. and you're addressing the mind with meditation, which is key. a strong intellect can't be bypassed. it's good to give it something to chew on...like feeding it cutting edge science or psychology articles that give 'evidence' for the worthiness of taking care of ourselves...and then while it's distracted, you can do all those other 'pointless and fun' things. :)

    as a tie in to your (lovely and awesome) meditation post, and to answer your question re: what our spiritual practice is like...one of the things that has become part of my practice is not only working with the mind, but also working with awareness in the body...giving awareness and allowance to emotional experience in the body...paying attention to the somatic qualities of experience. it is when i am most engaged in this practice that my non-linear, beyond cognitive wisdom surfaces, and that disconnect between mind and heart is bridged.

    that 'person that you are trying to be'...i think she is substantial, not just an ideal that is being striven towards. (she's your sacred feminine calling you! aaaaahhhhh!). well i'm just going to call her your wild self, for lack of imagination in this moment...and the more you feed her and listen to her, the less ghostly she will be. there is a totality to you that is observable in your presence, both online and in person. you are so much more than your mind. and i loves you. xo

  2. Thank you for calling me out at the end of this post...It feels like you are holding me accountable!
    I recently read this in an article, "I spent years trying hard to accomplish Important Things, only to realize that I get limitless joy from filling my bird feeder, reading books about stuff that never happened, and sitting still for hours at a time, not even thinking. Our culture doesn't consider these acceptable alternatives to hard-driving, hard-earning Important Things, yet they're the very activities we turn to once hard work and self-denial have freed up a little time. Don't wait. Free that time now."

    I am learning as I get older that these seemingly "pointless" things are actually THE things that life is all about. The things that feed the soul. The other day when I had a laundry list of things to do I decided instead to sit on a blanket outside, listening to the birds and staring at the sky. That hour filled me up, made me remember who I am, and made the to-do list that came after so much easier.


    1. Oh hon, that was not my purpose, it's just that you put it so perfectly. And I agree with that quote whole-heartedly, YET I have to say, my trouble has always been that I'm way too good at idle wandering and musing and spacing out. What this post is about I guess is that I'm trying to strike a balance between my wandering, un-tethered self and the one that wants to be fully in the practical world of life. But yes! Hanging out aimlessly is an important skill our society is by and large forgetting completely.

  3. I think of the question about discipline this way:
    Its easy to grab a frozen meal off the shelf in a grocery store and pop it in the microwave. There is instant gratification, and humans, like all animals, are wired to do that. Its why bears raid campsites to get camper's Cheetos. But, there is a cost to this method. Bears get addicted to people food and potentially eventually get shot, and humans get unhealthy and lose touch with the chain of life. Now lets say you prepare a meal that you have gleaned or gathered yourself. All kinds of worlds, feelings, sensations, are opened up with that act---did you spend a couple of hours getting nettle heads down by the river? You smelled the river, you felt the sting of the nettles on your exposed skin, you heard the birds, maybe you saw wildlife. Maybe, in your ramblings, you worked out a problem or had a great idea. Maybe you hardly had any thoughts and just got into the rhythm of the moment. At the very least, you got some exercise.
    All of which you would likely be missing out just quickly driving to the store and grabbing a frozen dinner.

    Does that make sense? Not that I am a paragon of discipline, ha ha. I have bad monkey mind and find sitting meditation exceeding difficult. However, I do excel at seeing the jewel in the simple acts of living---picking hawthorn berries and rosehips to make tea, spending a couple of hours making crackers by hand, laying on the couch for an hour while petting my cat who is sleeping on top of me. I could take drugs to relax, the quick fix, but these other things are my meditation, my practice.

    1. I love your comment, and think that is great analogy...

  4. It's always much more difficult to stick with something positive than with something negative...which is interesting because I believe that it takes more energy to do something negative than the opposite. The truth though, do whatever sets your soul ablaze. If it makes you happy, you're sending amazing vibrational energy out back into the universe for the rest of us to feel as well. So by all means, your crafts, your adventuring, never stop. The world needs happy hearts.

  5. I spent a greater portion of this past weekend painting terrible watercolours. :)


  6. Right there with you in that conflict.. to the point that sometimes my pointless wanderings are interrupted by concerns that I'm not wandering 'properly'. Ha! The masochistic mind! It helps that my work basically consists of writing about a hermit-naturalist-artist, and I feel somewhat integrated because of that. I'm glad that I was never attracted to living in cities, and was more than happy to leap in, gobble up some galleries or a gig and leap out again to wander in the woods with no specific reason. In fact I use cities mercilessly with lists and itineraries, as the opposite of my aimless sauntering. But it's hard to be present and aware sometimes at home when there's a list of things to do. I find that visitng somewhere else and returning helps to reset my vision- kind of like the quick fix for broken electrical things- turn off; turn back on again: reset to default.. xx

  7. I don't think I can add anything here, I like what Liz/James said though....that getting older one realises the pointless things are actually THE point in living. I fret sometimes that i am not working towards any sort of career...and then I remember, well f*ck, does it really f*cking matter? I'm living right this instant and time is tiny and I will see my babes when school is over for the day, and THAT matters to me. (even if they were heinous little trolls this morning when i waved goodbye to them I still look forward to seeing them again) . For some reason I find my breath better without the cloud of thoughts.....once my chores are done; almost like a treat.

  8. Sometimes I read what you write and I think that you are me, but 30 years ago. And I wonder what would have become of me if I had held onto my wandering state, or followed it where it led, instead of "settling down". Keep on following your dreams! You are an inspiration!

  9. Enjoyed & appreciated & empathized with this one.
    Take care x

  10. Is that lamb bone broth? Love this :) Funny, because I find that bone broths are extremely grounding. I tend toward not eating when I am stressed, and the only food I want in those moments is broth, or soups in clear broth. I never thought to actually can it, what a fantastic idea. It is quite time consuming, so why not?

  11. Hello, I' been following you for some time in my last blog and now with my new one.
    I like so much this post, and you remind me a lot of my boyfriend though I am the writer, maybe a mix of us two.
    Go on and let's enjoy the wild life!

  12. The way you describe yourself always strikes a cord with me...

    The other day I was thinking to myself, about how long it took me to become self-aware, how long it took me to become not-immature (I hesitate to actually use the word mature as a descriptor of myself). And then I got into a huge philosophical debate in my head, which is still ongoing, of which I will spare you :)

    I'm 37 now, and am at odds with the way I see myself, and the way we are expected to be.
    When it comes down to it, its not self-awareness or maturity at all.....its thats I just don't CARE about so many of the things that my community at large cares about - and its difficult to wrap my head around the origin of this feeling. What it is about me, that would lead to this? Sadly, my initial impression is negative, as in "it because I am immature". And then I realize thats just plain dumb. I am just the way I am, with my own interests, perspectives, passions, obsession with weather :) etc....there doesn't have to be a reason why, and then I embrace it. Its hard to describe this feeling concisely in a comment, as I would need an entire post to get it out, and even then...I'm not the best with words. But you are able to wrap that concept up into such a nice little package!

    If I could have it my way, I'd move into a little travel trailer with my hubby and animals, and I would wander, visiting cities, oceans, rivers, mountains, snow, and blistering heat. Where-ever I want to go, whenever I want to go. Having a little bucket of craft, jewelry, painting supplies, and a book everyday. And the funny thing is that this idea is totally and completely rational in my head. We have, in fact, done this before, and its so fitting to my style of living. Just difficult to maintain, financially. Thats where reality bursts open the door, shaking its head, and says "go get a job like a normal person" or "buy a house like everyone else" or "maintain your Linkedin account to establish your professional network (for the profession I hate)".

    Los Angeles is so driven by folks with professional motivations, newer-bigger-better-tidy houses, nice cars, shopping galore. Its hard to be non-standard here. I am lucky to have found some other kindred spirits here, those of us that have not been gobbled up by the establishment, but maintain some semblance of what appears to be a standard life.

    You really got into my head with these statements....

    "There's always been a big part of me that just wants to wander aimlessly and make things that mean absolutely nothing and have no discernible purpose"

    "There are still times when I wonder if I am the least grounded person I know"

    "I've always been so in my head, out of touch with reality, that I can barely function."

    "I enjoy water-coloring, even though I'm not any good at it"

    As always, I love reading your posts. Be Well.

  13. Whenever I'm feeling overwhelmed by my perceived pressures of non-conformity...I like to read/listen to a bit of Alan Watts. He helps me re-embrace my life perspective. Its nice to have reassurance that actually living your life is the point of life! I think that is why I identify with your spirit so much, and love your posts - you DO go out and live your life in a beautiful way.

  14. I love the peace that I see when I read your blog.

  15. Dear Milla, I relate so much to this post! You know, Milla, it seems to me that when you are doing your "pointless" crafts just for fun, you are actually doing a creative, grounded meditation!

    Same thing with walking, taking bike rides and wandering, looking up at the sky, gazing out at the mountains across the sea... and sharing a good long talk with a friend. All these activities are not actually productive - unlike cooking for instance, which is often very soul-nourishing as well - but they are very much in the present, and directly linked to our immediate environment. Which is what defines, for me, being grounded... :o)

    Being practical, organized or productive is something else. These things are helpful in creating a welcoming home for us to return to after our wanderings, for instance (and putting food on the table and a roof on our heads in the first place). But I find this difficult as well, and it's often in conflict with my contemplative, loving, being-in-the-present needs.

    For years, in fact, I had the feeling that the necessity of "making a living" was depriving me of my actual life. Finding a balance between "making art from nature and people" and " being wholly present to nature and people" was problematic in itself, without adding a job and weekly chores. So paradoxically, I ended up spending too much time cleaning and tidying up! Which made everything even worse of course.

    In the past few years, though, I found something that helped: setting only one or two goals for the day (it it happens to be a day off). As in, taking a walk, and sewing back my favourite coat buttons. Or, cooking and cleaning for a friend's visit. I sort of gave myself permission to fully enjoy this, without taking into account all the things I would also have liked /needed to do. (Drawing for my current project(s), painting my bedrooms' floor in a creamy white, cleaning the windows, etc.)

    And it works!

    1. Also, thanks to this blog you are a kind of famous recluse now... We can read at least your essays and musings, and we are reminded to look up often at the sky and trees (or introduced to the mushroom and nettle people), through your tell-tale pictures of this Island.

  16. (Mitä jos tahtoisinkin vain uida kohti horisonttia ja pudota maailman laidalta
    nukkua meren pohjassa kalojen ja kristalliveden alla
    katsella ylös
    pinnan valoa ja välkettä kun korvissa humisee hiljaisuus

    Enkä uisikaan niinkuin pitää, rantaviivan lähellä pysytellen
    laiturin tikkaita takaisin kuivalle maalle)

    Totaalisesti olen tehnyt valintoja jotka pitävät kiinni maassa, tietoisesti ryhtynyt vastuuseen toisesta ihmisestä, sitonut itseni ihmissuhteisiin ja arjen ajankäyttösuunnitelmiin. Opetellut olemaan läsnä toisille ja elämälle.

    Mutta luulenpa että tiedän mistä puhut.

  17. I guess I'm not alone when I said to myself, 'that sounds like me', after reading your lovely words in this post.
    So down to earth, you are. Truly. And that's why I love visiting your blog.
    I have to laugh. I still, after all these years, find joy in cutting & pasting & quotes, designs for greeting cards and postcards. I can spend hours doing that! And it's OK.
    Oh, and I'm making bone broth today, thanks to you. ;)

  18. Thank you for this post. For all your posts, really. I found your blog a *long* time ago (maybe via Wardrobe Remix on Flickr?) but I don't know if I ever really commented here. Your blog remains one of my favorites. It's not just a gal with a great personal style, your words are always so touching and honest and sincere.
    This post in particular hits home. I was an extremely shy and depressed child and teen and people kept telling me that I needed to "come out of my shell" and basically change. At that time I didn't understand there was a difference between shyness and introversion. It's not healthy to avoid people out of fear but it's fine to prefer to spend the bulk of your time alone or only with a few friends. And that you shouldn't feel guilty for not always wanting to socialize. When I realized this in my early twenties, I kind of went drastically in the "I want to be a hermit" direction, probably just for the quiet and lack of expectation. I still do lean towards hermit tendencies but I've learned now that I need people, just maybe not as much or as often as other people.
    And I'm still learning to find balance, structure. In a way, I guess I need my work and idle/play time to be separate to actually benefit each other. (Maybe it's a Taurus thing?) My work time needs to be focused on plans and productivity while my creative time needs to be...untethered and guiltless.
    Anyway, Thank you again. :)