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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Yesterday, I said I would reflect back and go on a journey through my blog posts, one month at a time. So today it will be March 2015 which is when I first set up my blog, I can’t believe it has been five years – yet within that time it is just 20 WordPress months – so in theory there will be twenty posts with this theme. Whether I end up doing a post for each month will depend on wherever this leads. I like being able to be spontaneous and see where life takes me.
I did think for some time before setting the blog up that I needed to find my focus, my niche, then I thought why? It needed to reflect me, authentic me. So this random approach where I can flit from whatever subject I wish at the time really suits me and reflects who I am, a deep thinker who has been a life-long learner, and more recently became a life coach, graduated as a social scientist with a dissertation on sense of belonging and developed a way of working with people to enhance mental health and wellbeing using life story writing – perhaps I will do a blog one day on my Waves and Pebbles Kite …
I enjoyed school, went to college and then experienced a wide range of jobs which have all taught me so much about people and life, and provided me with new skills. When I managed a community mediation service and practiced as a Mediator, not only did this teach me more about conflict and communication with people, about not making assumptions and the importance of being non-judgemental, but it also opened up to me the world of creativity. At least I think this is when I realised that although I wasn’t an artist – I couldn’t draw and didn’t actually do any art, having been put off at school – I did start to realise that I was creative in thought. At the time my eldest daughter’s artistic skills were blossoming and one of our mediators was an artist. This opened up to me the potential to use art and other creative activities as a means of facilitating communication when it may otherwise be difficult, for example when families are experiencing a breakdown in their relationships, often due to external stressful influences. I could see the potential of using creativity to bring people together and enable communication but I am digressing, for this post the aim is to reflect back on my posts in March 2015 – these are not the actual posts – they are my reflections now.
My journey through March 2015
Welcome to ‘Waves and Pebbles’
On the day of my first post I had received this beautiful bouquet of flowers and it reminded me of the importance of my family and friends that were supporting me during that difficult time. When everything else in my life changed in a moment of diagnosis in January 2015, it was my connections with people that were the constant in my life, as it feels now while we are dealing with lockdown. In hospital I didn’t have access to wi-fi back then, although thankfully that has changed so much now. However, my mobile phone enabled me to keep in touch, especially by text. Now, when much of the world is in lockdown as I write this, we have so many different ways of keeping in touch with people online especially video links which really seem to have taken off. Yet I find there is also something very special about blogging, already seeing how people across different parts of the world are reading my posts, and I look forward to connecting once again with more people day by day. I also much enjoy reading the posts of others who blog on WordPress.
There was no photo for this post, something I learnt later was of value in gaining attention to a blog post and something which I came to enjoy sourcing and then later using my own photos. This post talked about setting up a poetry page, which I had totally forgotten I had done. The page is still there and you will find poems titled Clouds, Welsh Home in the Morning, Light, Spring, The Sea’s Gift and The Orange Globe. My personal favourite is The Sea’s Gift, written at a time when I was suffering from depression when I often wrote what I call my ‘doomy gloomy’ poems. I love this one so I am going to share it here. My poems are written all in one go when the words just come to me, along with working out some kind of rhythm, and I didn’t change them after, which applies to most of my poetry apart from those written while doing a creative writing course, of which The Orange Globe is one.
Swirling, swelling, choffing about
ever there, forever no doubt
Wondrous feeling, breezing hair
Visual landscape, no compare
Softly, seeping, lapping away
ever there, forever a day
Gentle ebbing, loving cure
Sensual feelscape, yet so pure
Twilight, twinkling, milling anew
ever there, forever for you
Heaven crying, flowing deep
Mystical dreamscape, I will keep
Sunshine warming, glist'ning delight
ever there, forever my might
Soulful cleansing, giving hope
Miracle seascape, I can cope
Creativity and Wellbeing
This was a short post, again no photo, passing on information about the London Creativity and Wellbeing Week which has been taking place since 2012. I’ve just checked out the information on this year’s festival which is being postponed but they are researching the possibilities of doing something online.
In looking for a secure website to direct you to, I have found http://www.culturehealthandwellbeing.org.uk. As often happens when looking for one thing it leads to another. I have just discovered on this site “70 stories” under their News and Blogs page where people are talking about their own experiences … I will be returning! I’ve also discovered an interesting report on Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing published in July 2017 which I will return to when seeking evidence for the value of the various forms of creativity.
Time to take a pause
Well I started this post with the intention of reflecting back on the whole of March 2015 but I now realise that it is taking me too long and leading me on a different journey of discovery. I am also very much in need of my breakfast! So I am going to leave it here for now, wish you a good day and hope you may share with me how you are spending your own day, or if you yourself have spent time reflecting back on your old posts. The picture I am going to post is one taken this morning in my garden with a beautiful blue sky and not a cloud in sight. Best wishes to you all. Kay
Yesterday when I submitted my first post for a while, which is something I seem to keep doing – one post then leaving it – I was congratulated by WordPress on my 100th post. Somehow if felt as if that had come at the right time, having realised this week that I really must return to the blogging world to help me deal with this current situation the world finds itself in. Blogging really helped me back in 2015, it will do so again.
When I started my blog in March 2015 my life had been confined since the beginning of January, I had gone through my own isolation in phases, first to the hospital grounds, then the ward, then my room and finally my bed before the reverse happened and I was able to return home. I had survived so far but I had to stay at home to guard myself from infection, still going through chemotherapy treatment till the end of the year. After a while I was able to start having trips out and taking my own photos that I would blog about. Eventually I returned to university which is when my blogging days went on pause for a while.
I had thought that I would revisit each of my 100 posts, one at a time, but a quick look back and I realise that it will be one month at a time. So my next post will be reflecting back on March 2015.
For now, sitting in my lounge, I am going to make my everyday late breakfast of porridge with bashed up almonds sprinkled on top with honey. Sometimes I sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar, sometimes I count out the almonds or use a mixture of milk and water to make my provisions last. I will sit and enjoy. The television is switched off, it is peaceful with a beautiful blue sky outside. Sometimes I wonder if I will wake in the morning and forget that all this is happening, forget that we are in lockdown. But somehow, even though I am able to sleep fairly well at night, if somewhat later than usual, I wake with the knowledge that ‘it’ is still there. This surreal situation that cannot be ignored and we know that people’s lives are changing forever, many sadly lost.
Yet those of us who are blessed to still be well in our homes I hope will be able to discover new ways to live a life that makes us feel good. Maybe not all the time, our moods are perhaps more than ever likely to wobble, but to be able to live a more simple life that gives us the time to connect more with those that we care about, even though at a distance, to spend time doing the things we really enjoy yet otherwise don’t allow ourselves the time to fit them in. And to discover new ways of living that enable us to gain a sense of achievement and fulfilment. For me, creativity is the key to this, playing with creativity in a way that suits us as individuals. Some people may already be artists, musicians, singers, writers, crafters and designers, for whom creativity comes naturally. For some, creativity is something that others do and is a whole new world to explore. Take little steps and discover something different that you enjoy doing. There is so much out there to learn and sometimes all you need is a pen and paper (see my post yesterday on writing).
A year after I finished writing, I have NOW self-published my book “Life Happens, Live Happy” through Amazon KDP. Writing a book was one of my life goals and to be honest I felt like I had achieved it when I finished writing it last Christmas, as the goal was never about selling it. Perhaps that was why it took me so long to actually get it out there. Then again, perhaps it was all about timing, or the fact that it was a very personal book that it feels quite scary to share with the world. It now seems like the perfect time!
This book is very important to me and it was quite therapeutic writing it. Like this blog, it has at its root what happened to me in 2015 when I was diagnosed with a life-threatening form of leukaemia and was seriously ill in hospital. When I returned home after more than a couple of months in hospital, it was blogging I turned to as something to give me some focus in life, to distract me from the seriousness of what I was dealing with. So this little book talks about some of the issues around this time and what helped me, particularly having a positive approach to life and acknowledging the simple things that can make us happy. Like this blog, it is quite random in nature.
Back in 2017, I joined the Sue Stone Foundation as an accredited coach and this has made an immense difference to me, and it is Sue Stone who kindly wrote the Foreword for my new book. Sue wrote the book “Love Life, Live Life”, which I read I believe back in 2008 and found it very inspirational. Sue was later one of the Secret Millionaires on the TV programme and I feel very privileged to be a member of her Foundation whose aim is to spread positivity, love and success throughout the world.
I hope that some of you reading my blog will end up reading my little book. The aim of the book was to inspire anyone on their own life journey, whatever their challenges may be. It is available on Amazon across the world in English language, in the UK it is £6.99 plus postage for the paperback, the Kindle version is available for £2.99 or if you subscribe to unlimited then it is free under the KDP Select scheme. This is a new adventure for me and 2019 is going to be an exciting time. If anyone else reading this has experience of self-publishing through Amazon I would love to hear from you. I would also love to hear any thoughts on my book if you have a chance to read it.
The Sue Stone Foundation is holding its first online summit on Monday, 21 January in the evening. I will be one of the participants as a member of the Foundation. If you would like further information about this, just leave me a message.
Once again it has been a while since I blogged, no real excuses, it just hasn’t happened. Last November a distant artist friend challenged me to 30 days of drawing lessons on Facebook. My involvement was a bit of a disaster, I had every good intention but even though the time was there, it evaded me. Yet for me, the challenge was worth it because I produced the above! Believe me, this is far superior to anything I had produced before and it is now proudly framed and hanging in my downstairs cloakroom. It was based on a photo that I took whilst walking along my favourite bay. Every time I enter the cloakroom, it reminds me of that beautiful place and how I love living by the sea. It may not be a work of art but I enjoyed the process and it brings me joy whenever I enter the cloakroom. Not only does it remind me of the bay but I recall the kind offer of a friend to help me improve my drawing skills. Do you have something you have painted or made that reminds you of something and makes it extra special?