Friday, 23 November 2012

From Which Chair Shall I Address My Genius?

In which chair, out of all the chairs in the house, shall I sit?  This is not a flippant question.  All creative people are influenced by their surroundings, all creative people are prone to paralysing moments of indecision based on such things as, which chair to sit on. I am no different, and I have narrowed down my choice of chairs to three.  From each of these places, I have worked on different parts of my Master Plan to make the world a better and more arty place in which to live and die.  From each of these chairs, I have spent the past week working at different projects, with huge enjoyment, varying degrees of energy, and sometimes a little whoop of delight.  I have arrived at Blog Time and cannot work out which of these chairs will support the gathering of the past week into one cohesive account.

Don't be cohesive!  You cry.  Give it to us as a stream of consciousness, take us on a journey of wonder as we try and work out what you are saying.

And I say, how kind.  But in order to progress with all that I am doing, I do need to make some sense and connections, and though a muddled account would be a joy to write, none of you would say Ah, when you need me or my services, Ah.  That Antonia, never muddled, always lucid, she's our girl.  So here is an account of the past week and an introduction to the three chairs which I use in order to make my life go with aplomb.

The Studio Chair

The Studio Chair.  I used to have a hard wooden chair but now I am over 50 I need a padded one with arms that I can use to help me stand up.

My studio chair has seen many paintings and drawings.  There is another chair on the other side of the studio, and another table, and an easel, from which I paint in oils.  That chair has been sitting and resting since the last oil painting was finished a month or so ago, I have put a neon pink fluffy cushion on it and have put it to bed for a while.  This chair above, oh this chair - I sit here and work out drawings and create Angels.  This is my drawing and my acrylic table.  I am illustrating a new children's book about a witch called Isi, and this week I have been trying to make her real.  I have been trying to find her, and give her form so that she can come alive. Isi is a lovely, pretty witch with a poodle dog.  Isi loves the earth and nature, it is an exciting book to illustrate.

 There is a wonderful TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) on creativity.  In this talk she says that creativity is historically something that is considered external to us, that only recently have we been sure that we are responsible for our creativity.  She says that the Ancient Greeks referred to their creative processes as Divine, from the Gods.  It was something other, apart, and a gift.  She spoke of artists that she knows today, catching ideas for work as they wash over them, and pulling them back as they threaten to disappear into the ether.  She speaks of addressing your creativity as something that is in the room with you, and asking it to come to you and do its stuff.  She said that the word the ancients used for the Divine creative presence was Genius, and that the Genius was nothing to do with you or your brilliance.  It was God given and given to you for your use from outside, not inside, your body and mind.  I love this idea.  I think it is right.  In this chair this week then, I have addressed my Genius, which to my mind, lives in the corner visible in this picture, and asked it to come and create Isi.  And the Angels.  And do you know, it does come.  It is a wonderful relief not to be totally responsible for any good or bad work.  It is a wonderful relief to address your Genius, as it lives in your place of work, watching you and (we hope) longing to come and bring this idea to life for you.

Another painting I have done here this week, from this chair, with help from my Genius who is just itching to help, is for the new charity Roxie's Rainbows.  Roxie's Rainbows is recently set up to help children, and their families, deal with bereavement from a child's point of view.  Here is what they say -

It can be difficult to talk to children about death and dying and sometimes a little help may be needed. Trained staff at Roxies Rainbows will stand beside children and their familes, to guide and support them through what can be very complex emotions and feelings when a bereavement occurs.

The charity has started in response to the death of the sweetest little princess called Roxie Joanne Archer, who was killed when she was only two years old.  I have painted Roxie for the charity to use as they wish.  I needed my Genius to help me with this one, it upset me very much. I wanted little Roxie to be alive to see the painting.

The website is now up and running, please go and see

The Sofa  Chair

When I sit here, which I do a lot, I need a plan which makes me get up otherwise I would lie on here dreaming and smiling for ever.

Ah here is where the reading happens.  Look, you will see there the book about which we are all talking, on the table.  It is called Dazzling Darkness by Rev Rachel Mann.  It says, under the title - gender, sexuality, illness and God.  Here is the blurb (or a bit of it) - Dazzling Darkness is a true story about searching for one's authentic self in the company of the \living God. Rachel  Mann has died many "deaths" in the process, not the least of which was a change of sex, as well as coming to terms with chronic illness and disability.  You can see Rachel talking about A Graceful Death on the AGD video below.

Rachel's book is well worth reading.  We need thinkers and priests like her.

And on the sofa is a copy of the Spectator, for which which my dear kind brother John has taken out a subscription for me.  I enjoy reading it, but I suffer from what I call Death by Spectator.  If I don't get round to reading the one that comes through the post on a Friday, suddenly another one comes, and then another and as I have to read them all in order, I feel under attack by Spectators.  They pile up and I am haunted by them as they remind me that it is impossible to continue to live and call myself a good sister, as there are now four thousand Spectators in the house and unless I can find the first one that I missed, I cannot read any of the others, and what is the point anyway, I can no longer find the front door to escape, there are so many Spectators piled up against it.  However, there comes a point when I take time off and get through them all, and clear them, in the same way that you would clear the pressing and looming tax return from hell.  Except the Spectator is not hell, it is fine, it is just that it has it in for me.  See that wicker box on the table above?  In there are many Spectators that I have not yet opened, and as I cannot see them, they do not exist.  Today is Friday.  Another one will arrive any minute.  I am ready.

Another book I am reading and because I am no academic, am finding deeply difficult to remember the beginning of the sentence at the end of the sentence, is Compassionate Cities, Public health and end-of-life care, by Allan Kellehear.  Despite having to concentrate doubly hard, I am very excited about this book.  I feel that what we, Soul Midwives, healers, listeners, compassionate companions, are doing is working within a Compassionate Community.  It was meeting and talking to Jon Bowra who works for the Living Well, Dying Well organisation, that made me see a light bulb.  I had a eureka moment.  He talks of communities of volunteers and neighbours working together to set up networks for all those who need support at the end of life.  You don't have to go and have a heavy talk, he says, you can walk the dog.  The idea is to set up community networks that can support the person who is dying, not as a patient, but as a community member.  As Allan Kellehear says in his book, as a citizen.  As a citizen.

End of life care is often very professionalised so that the only people who can do it, are trained professionals who offer it exclusively as a service.  What I think both Jon Bowra and Allan Kellehear are saying, is that the professional services are excellent, alongside normal community support and participation.  The end of life person is not a patient (unless in hospital or hospice, and even then that is not all they are), they are a citizen. A part of the community. And the part we can play, we Soul Midwives, Doulas for the Dying, Interested Parties, I think, is setting up the networks.  An possibly before even that, making available places to come and talk about end of life stuff, over tea and cakes, so that when the time comes to face someone dying, it is not all completely unexpected and overwhelming.  I think that the first time we face someone we know or love dying, is the first time we address the subject of death.  We are forced to take a crash course in end of life stuff when we are probably panicking and upset.  I also met and really liked, the lady who is researching Compassionate Communities for the Dying Matters organisation.  I am hoping to talk with her again next week, she is very helpful indeed.

So I am working out what to do with this idea, and will be asking my Soul Midwife colleagues and friends what they think at our next meeting here, at Rolls Mansions, on Tuesday.

And Finally, the Kitchen Chair

A thoroughly public chair.  You have to make sure you look the part if you sit here, hair brushed, teeth cleaned, shiny shoes, concentrating frown.  The whole household passes by this chair.

May I introduce the final chair for today.  The Kitchen Chair.  This is the chair to sit in if you mean business.  To sit in this chair says that you are so busy and important, that you can work amongst the throng.  You can sit on a hard wooden chair, so dedicated are you, next to the larder (the opening behind the chair is the larder) and among the to-ings and fro-ings of all who live here plus their friends, and still hit the deadline.  Don't bother me!  you seem to say, see how invaluable I am to my work.  Watch me tap away here despite your chatter, and marvel and how I do not blink even when you are frying onions. 

But if the house is empty, as today, I sit in silence here and am not too comfortable as on the sofa so that I fall asleep, I am not in the studio having words with my temperamental Genius who may want to put moustaches on my angels, I am in a quiet house, at a quiet table, and doing the laundry at the same time.  The 16 year old boy giant is at school, Alan is coming tonight, my Polish lodger is sleeping after night duty upstairs, my other two lodgers are at work, and I know there is no one else in the house.  So sitting here is a good idea right now.  It can be very helpful to look up from the laptop, and see the flowers, and the bits and pieces on the table and muse for a short while.

And here, in the evenings, I can sit and look at emails while the 16 year old boy giant lies on the floor to rest his weary bones after a whole day of being upright and awake at school, and chat with him. I can have a flurry of texting with enthusiastic daughter as she comes off the wards where she is doing her nursing training, and I can try and contact elusive older son as he does what he does, wherever he is, bless him.

And so, I end today's blog.  All this week I have been entertaining a different Genius from each different chair.  In the studio, Isi, the pretty witch, has taken form, little Roxie has had glitter sprinkled onto the painting of her dress, and the ipad Angel, plus other Angels, are taking shape.  From the Sofa, I am reading Rachel's story, I have had huge insights into how to proceed with Soul Midwifery, Compassionate Companionship and Compassionate Communities, and have done battle with the Spectator.  From the kitchen chair, I have done this blog, have had jolly moments on Facebook and have been in contact with many and varied people, all of whom I meet on my journey as an Artist and Soul Midwife.  And at all times on this kitchen chair, I have been available to chat with Son, and have adopted a weary but resigned look of utter importance, in case any member of the household and their friends, are passing by.

Here is the kind of conversation I have with 16 year old giant boy, to set you on your way today:

 Mum, what is red and bad for your teeth?
(Mum - I don't know dear.  What is red and bad for your teeth?)
A brick.  Ha ha ha ha.
(Mum - oh dear.)

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