I recently took the opportunity, while on a holiday road trip, to visit Hornsea, a small seaside town on the beautiful Yorkshire coastline in England. The following piece of writing emerged (unedited).
“Waves have the power to entrance and refresh, to bring us close in to nature. They devour our stressful feelings and bring an inner depth of awe into our world. The fresh salty air, the constant yet rhythmic movement that rises and falls and moves in and out of our lives.
Braving the waters, there is nothing like being swept up and down within the gentleness of a calm yet revolving sea. To allow oneself to drift within its soothing hug before returning refreshed to the damp pillowed sandy and pebbly shore.
To catch first sight of the waves crashing against the shore is heaven embodied. It draws me in. As each rise swells to a crashing crescendo nothing else matters. This is life. This is all that is needed to wipe the worries away.
Waves are forever there despite them being far away. Their energy may lay dormant within us until we allow ourselves to be within their power, within their being, whether through our own visionary imagination or immersing ourselves in seascapes that effervesce with the sense of the sea, providing a source of sea therapy that is open to all who wish to offer themselves to it.
Sea therapy is for all, regardless of whether you are by the sea, if you have had personal experience of it, it stays within waiting to be given the key to open up your dreams of a life blessed by the sea.”
Not so long ago I moved away from the sea and now live next door to the Peak District National Park with its stunning mountainous scenery. I knew that I would miss the sea yet I have learnt that by remaining connected through my interests, friends, photos, projects and writing, I can still feel the benefits of that connection, that sense of belonging. A while ago I discovered reference to some research that backed this up, that if you have personally experienced being by the sea then the benefits can still remain with you. I now know personally that I can tap into this feeling whenever I choose and when I am able to visit the seaside it is the most amazing feeling and something that I will forever look forward to.
I didn’t realise until I was writing this post that the Peak District was the first National Park, created in 1951 (there is much history behind this which makes me realise how lucky we are to have the freedom to explore such a wonderful area). By the end of the decade the Lake District, Snowdonia, Dartmoor, the Pembrokeshire Coast, North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales, Exmoor, Northumberland and Brecon Beacons had also become national parks. https://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/learning-about/about-the-national-park/our-history.
It means so much to me to be able to share this picture of my long-awaited book, a collaboration with four wonderful ladies in my writing group on the Isle of Thanet in Kent, England. It was due to be completed in 2020 but it just wasn’t happening. I do believe that the right time comes and by waiting it has become even more than I hoped it would be and with the cover designed by my eldest daughter Jessica.
This little book represents what I am about, inspiring people to write and share the little stories in life with the benefits to wellbeing this can bring. Included is a selection of life coaching exercises for self-coaching appearing throughout the book. It’s one to dip into with a notebook and pen to hand to capture what thoughts come to mind.
I’ve self-published the book using my own Waves and Pebbles Publishing imprint and at the moment copies will be available directly through me. It is a little book but one that I hope will make a big difference, resulting in many special memories being captured and shared.
There are many writing prompts that you can take wherever you wish, don’t try and stick to the original prompt, let your mind wander. You don’t even need to be a writer to use this book, if you like you can draw instead (though I haven’t covered drawing in the book). It’s surprising what appears on the page in just five minutes if you allow the pen to just move across the paper without self-judgement.
I’ve just created a new page on Facebook – Writing Back to Happiness – which I hope will be available online later today. Please do follow my page. I intend to do some Facebook lives based on the book which will be starting soon and I will come back here to talk more about what is happening.
Recently I started watching an old series of Portrait Artist of the Year (2020). There was one artist, Curtis Holder, who really intrigued me and ended up winning the whole competition. He uses drawing to create his portraits that involve a multitude of lines, a kind of scribbling that doesn’t often leave the page. Gradually you see the person emerge and there is something quite special and intuitive about the whole process that seems to capture a sense of movement.
Inspired by the series, my aim is to work on creating portraits of my family members that create some kind of memory. The first one I did was one of my daughter while she was studying … I wouldn’t say it looked like her but it captured a moment in time and is part of my creative journey.
I do art for my own enjoyment, not to show others unless it is to inspire people to just have a go at something creative. It is a way of bringing mindfulness into your life without specifically practicing it.
Anyway, back to the picture. Curtis uses coloured pencils and after the series I discovered what pencils he used. I decided to treat myself to a slightly cheaper version but they are still of professional quality. I was excited when they arrived, looking forward to experimenting.
The next day, I decided to go out in my garden and create a flower. I wasn’t going to copy a photo, or get up close and study a flower precisely. Instead, I sat with my hot chocolate taking in the view of yellow Californian poppies surrounded by lush green grass. Orange Californian poppies are one of my favourite flowers, many years ago I lived next door to a very kind and gentle elderly lady who had some in her garden (she actually brought them back from California – or so I like to believe) and they always remind me of her. I didn’t know you could get yellow ones until they emerged.
I admired the poppies from a distance, blurry blobs of sunshine. Once I had decided what I wanted to do, I went indoors to select a handful of Light Yellow Glaze, Strohgelb Cream, Earth Green Yellowish and Dark Chrome Yellow. Later I returned for more, Warm Grey, Middle Purple Pink and Dark Cadmium Orange, plus of course my favourite colour for the sky, Phthalo Blue – in reality it is lighter than the photo shown here. I just sat and became fully absorbed in the moment with the sun bringing a luminous radiance to the colours spreading across the page.
A warning … know when to stop. I was really pleased with my picture and then I grabbed some more pencils. I realised too late that I had picked up some pastel pencils that weren’t blending with what I had used. I rubbed off what I could and tried to remedy but it went from bad to worse. I tried creating a tree trunk and ended up with something that looked more like an eye so I added eye lashes as the final touch and turned the picture around.
Watching Portrait Artist of the Year led me to learn about Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta. The prize for winning the competition was a commission to create a portrait of Carlos for the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and there was a whole episode that captured the process of Curtis creating his portrait. I found it fascinating and it resulted in something quite different and I think very special, I would love to see the original but it looks like that may be quite a wait. On checking, I find that the Gallery is currently undergoing considerable work and is only partially open until 2024. I did discover the Gallery’s Edwardian Tearooms, a vast space surrounded by works of art and with seating booths that have Champagne buzzers. This reminds me of one of my new activities during the pandemic. I started writing and planning a novel set in Edwardian times, something I never thought I would consider. To be honest, I enjoyed the research as much if not more than the writing so I didn’t get very far as I went off in so many different directions. So maybe a visit to Birmingham in 2024 would be a good plan to sit in the Edwardian Tearooms and be inspired to do some more novel writing.
I was led on a different research path with Carlos Acosta, discovering that he has such an inspirational story and in the programme he came across as a really nice, genuine person, and extremely talented. So another package dropped through my door this week – Carlos Acosta – No way home – A Cuban Dancer’s Story. I’ve not yet started reading it but I have already sneaked a peak at the photos included within of Carlos with his family and some ballet pictures. I also want to get to see the film Yuli one day which is based on his story.
Carlos was appointed Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2020. Below is a link to further information about him on their website and also a link to the commissioned portrait of Carlos on the artist Curtis Holder’s website.
On a day trip last week-end, I ended up at a wonderful place by the coast in North Wales. I had set off for the seaside and a much needed drive along the coast. I was not disappointed and captured photos of some beautiful places, some of which I will share in other posts.
Shortly before making our way home, we came across a small group of goats heading somewhat purposefully along the broad pavement. They were all headed in the same direction and it was difficult to see their faces. When they came to the corner they all stopped and just stood there, as if waiting to cross the road but not making a decision to do so. Cars slowed to give them space but they remained static as we passed by.
It was strange seeing them there, I didn’t expect to see mountain goats wandering about town. Except they didn’t seem to be wandering and I was intrigued by what they had in mind.
My initial feeling of surprise was mixed with wonder, it was a good feeling and I really wanted to savour the moment. Yet it was touched with wariness and caution – I didn’t want to get out and take a photo and I didn’t wish to disturb their perhaps perplexed focus on the road, an open but risky barrier to whatever their goal may have been.
As I relax on a Saturday morning I enjoy reflecting back on my photos and seeing where they lead me. The images of the goats have led me to reflect on dealing with the unexpected.
Sometimes things happen in a moment of communication, it may be a letter, email, knock on the door, telephone call or a random connection with a stranger while out and about. Something that stops us in our tracks, that interrupts our expected and comfortable path, even if that is an unknown path, such as my spontaneous road trips when I may get lost … as had happened when I discovered the goats! Oftentimes I have a vague aim in mind but I am willing to be drawn off-track especially if it may offer opportunities for intriguing discovery.
The things that can really knock us off track can be those that are totally unexpected or those that we didn’t see coming in quite the way that they did. It is at these times it is so important for our own self-care to just stop and pause, allow ourselves to take things in, like the mountain goats at the road junction. To stop and allow ourselves to just breathe and do what we need to do in that moment before we make a choice.
When faced with a junction in your life, take the time that you need to either make a choice or wait until the time is right for you to make that choice. It is your own life to live and even when we feel that we have no choice, or there is nothing that we can do, if we give ourselves the moments we need to just take things in, ponder the options we know about and allow time for those options we may not be aware of to reveal themselves, we will be better placed to make the decision that is right for us.
Sometimes we don’t have to make a decision even if others are pressurising us to do things we don’t want to do. We may eventually have to make a choice but the timing of that is our choice, it’s our life and our path. No-one knows another person’s world. No-one. They may think they do but we are unique with our own roots that lead to such a beautiful array of essences within the world.
This past week has been such a mix of emotions and I have been so privileged to spend time doing something that is so important to me. My younger self would never have imagined that I would still be finding new and valuable learning paths that have the potential to make so much difference to people’s lives.
So it’s the start of another week-end, a journey of opportunity.
As we passed the mountain goats we wondered if they would be OK, would they be stuck where they were. We went off our own route and stopped to ask the way, being rewarded by a beautiful late afternoon seascape and connecting with local people who helpfully pointed us in the right direction.
We continued on our way and joyfully came across the goats once more, this time having made their way to a new spot where they felt comfortable to spread out and wander into the much quieter road. They looked content, they had found their way even if that was just for now. And that’s OK.
Standing proud yet somewhat sombre, a single bloom of a daffodil signifies for me the start of Spring, the time when the daylight lingers longer. It is a symbol of brighter things to come.
There seem to be a number of different meanings attributed to the daffodil – from these I choose Hope, Rebirth and Rejuvenation. Perhaps this is because I associate Spring with when my mum used to spring clean our whole home from top to bottom. I don’t know how she managed it being a working mum with three children to look after but our home was always spotless and tidy yet at the same time a comfortable home with an array of ornaments.
I was fortunate to grow up with hope for the future. I had positive experiences at school that instilled in me a desire to seek out opportunities in the world of work. I wonder how much that good experience has led to my enjoying a lifetime of learning which has enriched my life.
I never realised before today that there is a Daffodil Society set up originally in 1898 as The Midland Daffodil Society in Birmingham to promote the breeding of daffodils and they usually hold an annual show in Warwick. For me, I have always loved the simplicity of a bunch of daffodils and the golden joyfulness they bring when a jug of water brings them to life, standing proud together.
When I decided to take a photo of the single daffodil in bloom outside my back door, I didn’t realise it was going to take me on this path to a famous poem by William Wordsworth written in 1804 and inspired by a walk with his sister Dorothy around Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater in the Lake District. This painting by J M W Turner in 1819 is of the same area.
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
By William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the milky way, They stretched in never-ending line Along the margin of a bay: Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: A poet could not but be gay, In such a jocund company: I gazed—and gazed—but little thought What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.
At a time when we may not all be able to walk with the daffodils, I felt the need to search out a virtual walk. I was not disappointed. I found a beautiful and peaceful visit to the daffodils at Gunby Hall and Gardens set in the midst of the Lincolnshire countryside. (You will find Gunby Hall and Gardens on Facebook where there are a number of different videos of their gardens which I am looking forward to enjoying.)
Today, feeling somewhat reflective, I decided to revisit my blog and discovered an unpublished draft that shared the link to a guest blog post I wrote last summer. I was really pleased to be invited by Suzanne of Raising Midlife Vibrations to do this and the post ended up being my journey through writing. Whilst I am rather late in sharing this, I do believe that sometimes this happens for a reason – yet to be revealed! If you find this post helpful at this time I would love to hear from you. The link to my post is below and I thoroughly recommend you take time to explore Suzanne’s wonderful blog.
I am excited to report that the second art book I have created with Scottish artist Stewart Morrison has just been self-published using my Waves and Pebbles Publishing imprint. If you are lucky enough to come across Stewart in the historic Artists’ Town of Kirkcudbright you will have a chance to buy one of the first copies. You may also come across Stewart as he starts to revisit some of his favourite places nearby.
It has been quite a journey and the book is very special. The idea originally came from Stewart in January as an idea for a follow up to our first book that was about a collaborative art project involving Stewart creating art inspired by the beautiful Thanet coast where I live. By March we were well into the third draft of the book on Scotland with friends offering to provide written contributions. Then lockdown struck and there was uncertainty.
I was much relieved when Stewart agreed to continue and it has provided a welcome focus. The book covers an artist’s journey in mind, starting in Kirkcudbright, travelling up the west coast and down the east coast before returning across country to Kirkcudbright. I decided to work out how long the journey was and surprised to discover it was around 2,500 miles and 100 hours of car travel – so it is my dream journey when I can take off for a few months and have a very extended holiday. Perhaps a working one doing life story writing workshops along the way! It was lovely to discover such a variety of places, each with their own character. The book includes Stewart’s art over the past five years and written memories of his own going back over 50 years to his childhood. Friends have shared special poems and memories of the places that the journey takes us to, roughly 20 East and 20 West coastal communities.
I hope you may get a chance to see a copy soon. I have a small supply myself for when I am getting out and about more near Broadstairs in Kent, England and we have plans to publish an online version. In the meantime, I am including a few photos here. If you have any questions either for myself or Stewart, please let me know in the comments or email me email@example.com.
My own experience in life is that inspiration is something I get from a variety of sources. To list but a few: specific people, exploring and learning, discovering possibilities through curiosity, reading books, different experiences, connections with people and with nature. By being curious about life and opening up opportunities, new worlds appear, clusters of community, leading me to explore even more to find out what else may enrich my life.
When I feel inspired, I feel good and life takes on a fresh field of wonder. I am given the tools to follow my dreams and instincts, to bring to life what is within me, what it is I really wish to do.
So this brings me to motivation. Throughout my adult life I have always considered that I am self-motivated. I believe that this self-motivation comes from the inspiration that I absorb. As a child, my parents inspired me through their hard work to provide a lovely home and garden that they both enjoyed and were proud of. This motivated me as an adult to always seek to be employed in work that I found fulfilling and to continue to improve myself. My love of learning was nurtured by an enjoyable school life. My English teacher at secondary school took me from a low level of achieving to gaining the top grade in my ‘O’ level exams (now replaced by GCSE).
When I worked as a Research and Personal Assistant to the Group Historian at The British Petroleum Company, the man who wrote the first volume of the company’s history, I was inspired by the process of creating a book. I was privileged to be involved at all stages through to coding the draft that was then transferred to a black box for Cambridge University Press. This was in the early days when offices didn’t have computers and it was a big event when we changed over from electric typewriters to dedicated word processors. I still recall now going for the week-long training where I worked in the City of London.
Whilst working in this role I was inspired by this kind, generous and supportive man who brought out the best in people. In a business world where some staff were deemed inferior, he erased the barriers that existed within the system. I was invited to join a lunch with the Chairman in his own dining room on the top floor of the office tower block and experienced first hand how people’s perception and behaviour towards me could change just because I was seen to be eligible to join an elite group. Yet the person I worked for embraced everyone, their uniqueness, their contribution, and he developed the strengths of those in his team and helped them overcome their weaknesses. Whenever I think of who has been the biggest inspiration to me in all my working life, I think of him.
This question has led me on a journey through my memories of life. Important memories that are part of my identity and from which I gain a sense of belonging. Yet now I have to stop and think. Did I answer the question?
Reflecting back, inspiration is what I get from outside of me. Some people may ask the question “Can I get inspiration from within?” What I would say is that it is motivation to do the things that we really want to do that comes from within, and that this arises from the pool of inspiration that we have absorbed.
There are other ways in which we are motivated. We may want to save up for something special so we may do extra work to bring in more money. We may want to get fit and lose weight so we can look good for a special occasion. For me, this is a different kind of motivation that is external and is not so closely linked with inspiration. For me, the biggest and most long-lasting rewards in life are when you are inspired and self-motivated to take action towards your dreams, what you really, really want to do in your life that is not just for one end purpose.
So, if we think of saving up for something special, what would make that longer lasting and involve inspiration and self-motivation? For me, it would involve the creation of memories while on a holiday, taking the time to write a few journal entries along the way, taking plenty of photos from which each one could lead to a different story being told when shared with others over the years.
Losing weight to fit into a new outfit? Well it would be my personal journey, again documented with photos and little bits of writing. Being able to look back at events and times of our lives enables us to share these stories with others, and with our families, making new connections in the process and inspiring others to motivate themselves to take their own actions.
As a Waves and Pebbles Life Story Writing coach and facilitator, I inspire people to write (or draw) the little stories in their lives. Alongside that, using the Life Wheel and exploration of life values, I enable them to take self-motivated inspired action towards their dreams.
Writing and creativity has therapeutic benefits and takes us on a journey of self-communication. When people come together and share their stories, this is when magic can happen.
Kay Underdown is a Life Story Writing, Sense of Belonging and Life Wheel Coach and Facilitator. She provides one-to-one telephone coaching using the Life Wheel and is currently developing and planning online sessions, groups and workshops. Kay is a member of the Sue Stone Foundation and is an accredited coach with The Coaching Academy.
In 2019 Kay published her first book “Life Happens, Live Happy” which is available on Amazon, and is writing her second book “Writing Back to Happiness”, based on her own approach of combining life coaching with writing and sharing stories about life. She graduated with a BSc (Hons) Social Science degree as a mature student in 2017, her dissertation being on sense of belonging in relation to people, place, memories and nature.
Kay is collaborating with Scottish artist Stewart Morrison who is based in the historic Artists’ Town of Scotland, Kirkcudbright, where Kay met him on a roadtrip around the UK with her daughter in 2017. The first book as a result of a project that emerged as a result of their mutual interests was “Drawn by the Sea” self-published in 2019 and containing art inspired by the Thanet Coast. The second book “Drawn by the Sea: Scottish Coastal Communities” will be self-published this year and contains a selection of art, taking the reader on a pictorial journey around the coast of Scotland.
For all enquiries about Kay’s work, including any related to the above books or prints of Stewart’s art:
I’ve just discovered this unfinished post that I left hanging around in my WordPress blog waiting to be finished back in 2018. I had only just started the words but the title and photo are very relevant to me now, in June 2020 during the UK lockdown. This is now where I spend most of my time when I am outdoors.
I painted this picture back in 2018 when my artist friend Stewart suggested I go to the local beach and paint en plein air. Not being a painter, I was somewhat horrified at the suggestion, the thought of people watching my childlike attempts to paint. Yet I loved the essence of painting outdoors. So I set up a table in my garden, retrieved paints from the shed, a cheap canvas I had purchased with good intentions some while back and sat down to paint.
I became totally absorbed for what must have been a couple of hours. I enjoyed selecting and swirling around the colours and actually seeing my garden from a different perspective. By the end, it gave me a good feeling and now sits in my conservatory, a happy reminder of that time and maybe the picture will remain with me as a memory of where I lived whenever I may move on in the future.
It may not be a work of art, and I should have known when to stop as I decided to add more layers, but if you have never tried painting or drawing in your garden, or even indoors in your home (there is another blog on here when I started sketching my lounge) then I do urge you to have a go and see how it makes you feel and it is a wonderful way to capture memories.
Only this week I had a one to one art class for the first time on Zoom. I was amazed that I actually managed to draw some fruit that resembled in some way what it was. Using the Zoom platform worked really well. It took some thought beforehand how to arrange everything so my teacher could see what I was doing and I could watch her but it led to a very relaxed and enjoyable session. Towards the end we explored a fun way of mixing watercolours to result in a visual guide to the different shades that could be achieved.
During my lesson, I showed my new teacher a small piece of art I created that is very special to me. It is what I consider a childlike picture of a house on the beach, a depiction of a dream I had some years back of wanting to live by the sea (now achieved in 2017). The picture led her to talk to me about the genre of Naive Art, a term I had never heard of, that is described by the National Association of Naive Artists as “a simplistic charm and humorous vitality … created all over the world, by men and women from all walks of life, who have had no formal training” (www.britishnaives.co.uk). She also showed me a wonderful book of such art and I am now intrigued to discover more about it and maybe it is something that I can aspire to. Membership of the Association is by a submission process but there is a Facebook group which I believe is open to anyone to apply to join.
I have found the lockdown to be a time for reflection, an opportunity to explore different avenues and to focus on what is important to me. Having said that, it has not been the easiest time to concentrate or to be creative with my writing. I believe in taking this time day by day and realising what is most important in life. A time to live in a way that reflects your values.
Sending good wishes to everyone who reads this post and I hope you stay well and are able to find ways to live your life in a way that brings you contentment during this difficult time the world finds itself in.
Today it went through my mind that I was gaining some kind of pattern to my daily life. There is much advice that routine is good for us during this surreal time but a belief I have held for some while is that I don’t much like routines … to me it feels like too much predictability whereas I like to bring spontaneity into my life, to allow time for those creative moments. Yet without some kind of planning, at the moment those creative moments haven’t quite been happening. Slowly perhaps we are adapting to the changing nature of life that has been sprung upon us. For now, life as we knew it has seemingly been put on hold and people are affected in such contrasting ways across a whole spectrum of experience. So for now, I am enjoying accepting a different pattern into my life. One that is evolving yet can adapt and change as the rhythms of the day change with the weather and external commitments that spring from a different source that is changing the nature of how we live in this moment and maybe in the future to come.
Today, to go with this post, I wanted some kind of pattern, so I started with a photo that I love and thought I’d see where it went. I used Affinity Photo software on my iMac and just played around with it until I discovered something that I felt was right for this post. It is a photo of a place that I love that I don’t get to see at the moment but is held close to my heart. It’s so beautiful that it deserves a post of its own – Kingsgate Bay.