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Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Future. In a purple cardigan.

Last week, I made the decision to step back from everything but being an artist.  I feel so much better.  I even wore my new purple cardigan yesterday,  big, stylish, fancy purple cardigan.  I know I looked a million dollars, I kept passing the mirror and saying with a single raised eyebrow and a knowing smile to my reflection, Wow, Antonia, you fancy creature, you.  A million dollars, at least.

The excellent Eileen Rafferty, photographer extraordinaire, is staying this weekend, and has made me a pot of tea.  I have carried it up to my bed where I am more comfortable, inspired and happy than I have been for a long time.  I have burrowed back into my bed, pulled two deep pink and white polka dot covers round me, and arranged three huge fluffy cushions in hot magenta and white behind me so that I can sit up and write this. Right now I am a hot magenta artist that wore a purple cardigan yesterday.  It feels good. I am good.  Hear me roar.  And drink tea.

A Graceful Death

I have four new sitters this year.
  • Claire, who has come back, somehow, from a terrible cancer, and is living with a heightened awareness, one day at a time. Claire is beautiful and articulate, and has much to give.  Eileen has filmed Claire and her friend Jackie talking about dying, being in a Hospice, and not dying.
  •  Mike, with Motor Neuron Disease, completely immobile in a wheelchair, full of energy and ten years into his illness.  He communicates through an ipad, and has prepared me a power point presentation for AGD about Motor Neuron Disease, for which I am very grateful.  Mike is a man on a mission to tell people about this condition, and as an ex teacher, is very good at it. 
  • Julia, with Motor Neuron Disease, a very progressive version of MND, deteriorating fast, just a year since her diagnosis.  A gentle, loving, strong lady with a young family. Julia is, like Mike, completely immobile, but she can still speak, and has much to say, though it is increasingly difficult for her to do so.  Julia just wants her family and her friends around her, and to be honest.  
  • Kate, a young doctor who has terminal cancer.  I am going to meet Kate next week, up North, and interview her.  Eileen will photograph and film her. I have met Kate once, and have heard her speak, and I know she will be wonderful.
After this year, 2013, I will stop painting for the exhibition.  I will instead, take on painting people at the end of life, at any stage of life or death, as private commissions.  I will still work with the dying, but not for the exhibition.  I will continue my work privately, which will give my sitters much more attention and time at whatever stage they are if they are at the end of their lives, and will include their families in the whole project, too.  All the work done, painting, writing, filming and recording should that be requested, will be for the families and sitters alone to keep.  And so, after the four sitters mentioned above, I will keep the exhibition this size, and rearrange it all.  How so?  Well today, I am going to London to seek advice and wisdom from a friend who trains high fliers to fly high well.   She will sort me out.  She is very good at thinking, and planning, and not being an idiot.  To say thank you, I am going to give her some Reiki energy treatment, and then she is giving Alan, me and my brother a meal.  I think I win here. 

AGD goes to St Catherine's Hospice in May, for Dying Matters Awareness Week.  Fab.  Not all the paintings will go there, and this is exciting, this is how the future looks.  I will be able to select from the body of work and take the paintings that will best enhance the organisation that is using them.  It frees me up too, to talk more about the paintings and the work that I do.

In November, I am, with huge excitement, organising a three day Exhibition and Soul Midwife event; I have been offered the use of the Unitarian Church in Bridport. Already the amount of help from Soul Midwives and friends for this event, is astonishing.  I will have creative workshops, discussions that challenge, talks on Soul Midwifery, and much tea and cake.  There will be a piano concert by Lizzie Hornby, who composes the most beautiful and heartfelt music for A Graceful Death.  And I hope to have my four new paintings on show, with film and recordings. Mike, in his wheelchair, is hoping to come.  And Claire, now that she is well again, is going to take part in a discussion about dying.  And I want to fill the whole building, for this event, with lights, and flowers, and love, and wonderful scented candles, and strength, and understanding, and knowledge.  I want everyone to come away feeling as if they have touched by grace, and leave with another piece in place of the jigsaw of their lives.  I want this event to be unsentimental, straightforward, honest and inspiring. 

Soul Midwifery

I am hosting a Soul Midwife meeting here in my home on Monday.  I have met so many good people, made some deeply loving friendships, through Soul Midwifery.  The meeting on Monday is a little different from the others that I have held here.  I have arranged it, with the other Soul Midwives who are attending, so that we spend the day with an agenda and discussion points.  It will be a way for us to all meet again, and talk with each other, and to enjoy each others company.  But to make sure we actually listen to each other, and come away with ideas and encouragement for the work that we do, this meeting is much more formal and structured.  Afterwards, it will be a free for all in the kitchen, and this is why.

My old pal, a Soul Midwife from Ooop North, is coming to stay.  It is her birthday.  After the meeting ends, we will take little time out, catch our breath, and start up again with a tea party and balloons to celebrate old pal's birthday.  Some Soul Midwives, having come from a long way away, will stay the night, so I expect and hope that the tea party will go on long enough to get a takeaway in, and carry on until we explode.  Sounds like a good way forward.

The Future

I like the future.  It revolves around the work I do with A Graceful Death.  I can concentrate on this again.  It is a very good exhibition, I look forward to making it the best it possibly can be.  I look forward to using it as a spring board from which all sorts of events and ideas come.  It is the centre from which I work.  The paintings started in 2007, and now, six years on, I have much experience around the kind of effect it has on people.  It can now be used in many different ways to make a real difference in end of life awareness and education. 

The future is all about me.  What do I want to do?  What do I not want to do?  I don't want to be chasing my tail any more, and I don't want to take my eye off what I do best.  I do want to paint, talk, write, heal, think and inspire.  I want to work within A Graceful Death, from which all things that touch me and teach me, come.  I also want to play.  I am creating a small AGD shop that will sell items around life, death, love, mystery, God and the universe.  Creating things for this shop is pure happiness.  It is playing, it does me so much good.  I aim for it to do you good too.  More about that a bit later when I have something to show you.

And so.  I have had my pot of tea.  It is time to get up and see what state my sons are in.  Asleep I expect, with a mountain of crumbs and food piled high around them.  When they are asleep, they are my best friends. When they are awake, I hide food around the house in an effort to only do one big shop a day.  Otherwise, when they are not asleep, they are like Desperate Dan, with cow pie on the hour every hour.



Or like Asterix the Gaul's companion, Obelix


Time now to get up, then, and put on my purple cardigan.  Time to go to London for some high flying coaching, time to leave Dan and Obelix here with the unsurpassable Eileen and hope that only she remembers where all the food is.  Time to get on with the future.