Sandra Brownlee covering a notebook

27 Things

Sandra Brownlee covering a notebook

Bits of hair, escaped from my ponytail, are blowing across my face, tickling my nose. A tiny ant works its way up my arm, just as a dried leaf brushes against my right foot. A lawn mower’s hum blends into traffic sounds. Sirens wail. Teenagers shout. My mind swirls.

I’m lying on my yoga mat on the lumpy grass in my local park. Park is a generous word- it’s a grassy boulevard between two busy streets, schools and hospitals. But yoga happens here once a week at noon, for free. We’re nearing the end; it’s time for savasana. I try to breathe, to relax my face, to let my feet splay. But all I can think about is Charlotte in that scene from Sex in the City, when she emerges from a room in her acupuncturist’s office, face studded with needles, insisting that he turn off New York – she can’t relax. He explains that the world will always swirl around us, wherever we are. It’s our job to learn how to ignore New York, to shut it out. I remember how those needles between her eyebrows moved as she furrowed her brow. How could one turn off New York?

I get it Charlotte. There are 27 things swirling through my head, and I couldn’t shut them off either.

Twenty seven has always been my exaggeration number.

I had to do it 27 times before I got it right.
My Dad made me practise for 27 minutes.
I put that kid to bed 27 times before he finally fell asleep. 

Twenty-seven isn’t that important of a number to me, it just sounds like A LOT.

It’s been a week of A LOT. A lot of school supplies. A lot of laundry. A lot of moods. A lot of trying to get back into it. My head is swirling. If the needles were there, they’d be furrowed.

After yoga I pick the grass out of my hair and open my notebook from the five day workshop I attended last monthOn the last day of the workshop, while sitting on a blanket under an apple tree, our teacher Sandra asks us to write down 27 things that resonated with us over the past five days. Twenty seven epiphanies, observations, quotations… anything. Some wondered what 27 meant. What if we fell short? Sandra quietly said, 27 just means A LOT. Let your thoughts flow. I’m with you Sandra.

So here are my 27 things that flowed from my pen that day in the sheep barn. It’s not a tidy list, it’s a little cryptic. But I wanted to share them here, because I’ll need a reminder of this week in the coming months when my mind swirls. When I need to shut out the noise and zone in on what resonates. When I need to get to know myself again.

  1. The answer is right here (something I said when my friend seated across from me asked me how to draw. I’m not particularly skilled, but I looked at the object in front of her, told her to stare at it and not look at the page, then said: the answer is right here. Then I took my own advice. It’s always right here.)
  2. I love the sensation of brushing gesso onto paper, using a big, soft brush
  3. Order equals calm
  4. Creativity requires discipline
  5. If you want to get better at drawing, draw, draw, draw (this applies to many things – cook cook cook. Write write write. Love love love.)
  6. Ripe fruit is delicious crushed on toast
  7. Using my ‘real camera’ makes me happy
  8. A beautiful photograph makes my heart flutter
  9. For an emotion to arise, writing has to be specific
  10. We aren’t living in the past when we reflect, we are enlivening the present moment
  11. I love not using my phone
  12. The word ‘just’ shouldn’t be in our vocabulary
  13. Thoughts come into our head when we’re quiet. Say hello, then let them go
  14. Structure fuels my creativity and flow (this is #3 and #4, Lindsay)
  15. I love swimming in the morning, before I start my day
  16. Notice what you notice
  17. “Stains are there not to make us regret our lives but to help us remember our journey” -Stuart Kestanbaum
  18. Art makes great sounds: tap, dip, cut, crunch, inhale, exhale
  19. Practice compassion, with boundaries (Brené Brown interviews were on repeat in the car from New Hampshire to Nova Scotia)
  20. Follow the thread, keep going. (This means when you’re curious, stay with it.)
  21. Sunflower seeds blended with tahini, garlic and pickle juice make for a delicious dip
  22. Pickle juice is incredibly versatile
  23. It is ok to wear unmatching earrings in each ear
  24. Nadia (my friend and host for the week – see point #6 and #21 for more Nadia) looks beautiful in a kimono covered in persimmons on warm August mornings
  25. I want a kimono. But will it be cozy enough for me on January mornings? The cold kills elegance
  26. I want to savour my life right now
  27. Love after Love (a poem by Derek Walcott that Sandra read to us on day one. I wrote about it over here. It hits me every time).

*Image above – Sandra Brownlee, showing how to cover a notebook with a fabric we ‘like to touch’.

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