Great Expectations

My goodness, how time flies. A whole week has gone by since I heard the dreaded news about the pitch. But I was lucky enough to be away last weekend – glooooorious bank holiday sun and 3 days camping – the perfect antidote to the pain of rejection.

Every new dawn is indeed a wonderful thing. But a new start sometimes brings with it some pain.

tents

Dawn breaks.

It’s 5 a.m. Imagine if you will, those trees are full of birds singing to greet the new day.

No they aren’t. The birds have fled. Those tents contain giggling, laughing and yelling kids. And one by one so do all the other tents in the circle as they all catch on to the delights of early morning frivolity.

Heavy sighs and bleary eyes from every adult present.

Action required to ensure more sleep the next night.

How about a 6 mile hike.

Perfect.

Our girls are members of the Woodcraft Folk and we were camping with our district. Oh what fun we had. Three days of messing about in tents, watching the children play, play, play – their freedom and fun artfully enabled but not controlled by the grown-ups.

camp-wide

The Woodcraft Circle

This kind of freedom is something all children are entitled to, although of course not all get to experience it. And as adults we lose all sense of freedom if we’re not careful. Some people don’t but I know I have. I’m taking action to reclaim it, but it’s an uphill battle.

field-wide

A newly planted field of beans

Mostly it’s me I’m battling. Years of learned behaviour and self-defined rules to try and rewrite. Rules that tell me what I can and can’t do, what I am and am not capable of, what I should and shouldn’t do. How did that happen?

They’re not healthy guidelines within which to play and explore, which is what I saw Woodcraft Folk achieve for the children at camp. Theirs are guidelines and principles that enable freedom of expression, rather than stifle it. Inspiring indeed.

bluebells

My first ever sight of a bluebell wood

We saw an amazing array of vistas on this one walk. Surprising and quite beautiful landscapes around every corner. Like life itself I guess, if you look at it with the right eyes.

tunnel-of-leaves

A tunnel of fragrant hawthorn blossom

Of course not all landscapes are as immediately arresting as this. But that doesn’t mean they’re not beautiful. It’s just a matter of perspective. Mental note to self: remember to enjoy the view whenever possible.

My favourite part of the walk was the last. A long tramp across soggy marshlands as we neared our final destination. A dramatic, desolate landscape oozing (quite literally) with its own mysterious history and mud. Lots of mud.

swamp-wide

Bleak and beautiful

I almost expected Magwitch from Dickens’ classic story ‘Great Expectations’ to appear from behind a soggy hillock demanding wittles and a file with menaces. We had biscuits for the kids and we certainly could’ve spared one or two for a needy convict. Alas, we didn’t meet any escaped prisoners, however we did meet our own adversary.

The deep and watery gulleys that surrounded us in this marshland began to cut through the neat green pathway marked on our map. The first of these gloopy stream beds was relatively easy to cross and the kids continued onto the path beyond with little fuss. But the second was more of a challenge – a deep scar in the wet earth, about 15 feet deep and 20 feet across, with steep and extremely slippery banks and up to a foot of sticky mud at the bottom.

Th first couple of people to cross lost their shoes, their dignity and their balance. So we adults found ourselves having to consider quite carefully the best course of action to get our 20 children across this steep, deep, slippery, muddy, sodden gulley. For a while it seemed quite daunting, but once we reminded ourselves and the children that the worst that would happen was that we’d get very muddy, it suddenly became a lot more doable. Something I need to do more often – remind myself that outcomes are unlikely to be catastrophic.

swamp-feet

Look, no feet!

Eventually and after investigating alternative routes each one as impassable as the last, we elected to form a human chain and pass the children across the divide, one by one. Just as we began the job at hand, the next group with younger children turned up. So our human chain was strengthened and so was the challenge.

It was great to see different people’s responses to the situation. Most were practical, one or two were natural leaders, nearly all were happy to be part of the team and there were only one or two who insisted on doing their own thing, regardless of the best interests of the group. Fascinating stuff. I wasn’t one of the leaders, but I played my part as a fully committed member of the team – a valuable link in the chain.

swamp-chain

We carried the littlest children – passing them from one person to the next and we held the hands of everyone else – big children and adults alike, until about an hour later we had all 30 or so children and accompanying adults safely across; muddy, tired and relieved. Never was a post-walk ice cream so gratefully received as it was by those children!

ice cream

Earned and deserved

And come the next morning, They slept. They slept like babies.

And so did I. The pitch put in its place, buried in the mud and marked up as one of life’s experiences from which there is much to learn and nothing to regret. As Eleanor Roosevelt said;

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face.”

So thank you Woodcraft Folk, for a wonderful and uplifting weekend.

swampwide

Mission accomplished. The Crouch Estuary at Brandy Hole

Oh and in case you’re wondering, all this wild beauty was in Essex. Deepest, darkest Essex. Lovely isn’t it.

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2 Responses to “Great Expectations”

  1. Lorraine Fossi Says:

    True, time flies…and I just remember that I forgot to answer to your last post (the one about the rejection). I wanted to say that you have done your best and that the ‘no’ was not telling your idea was not good. Not at all. They did not need your idea at this time, you were not possibly part of their agenda, that’s all, now who knows if their agenda was right or if they know better than you what’s creative, good, clever ? You and them were not matching and maybe the Univers (some call it God) has another plan for you. A better one. Pride is a major defect in most of us (for kids too), it makes us feel that it is all about our side. If I look back at past renections: I see: a dear boyfriend saying NO, negative answer to jobs, gallery owner showing disgust while looking at my paintings, classroom not voting for me, bank saying no to a loan…If I look back on these terrible times where I felt let down and misunderstood, I then realised that they had a reason to be, to be the way they were: painful. That the wanted boyfriend was an asshole, that the banker was right, that it was just no sense to borrow £5000 to give to that boyfriend … That the gallery was actually showing stuffs I do not approve and that the owner stretches the artists like mad etc…What I am trying to say is that each of these rejection can be now seen as a message, to my inner self and sanity.
    Young I was very stubborn and sometime creating situations where I will be somehow and soon or later rejected. I devellop later on the Fear of rejection …because I wanted so much to feel accepted , I was becoming too much, too much to be with… Like these Kids!
    Then I met my stuff: PAINTING and found an area of freedom and expression, somewhere were I could try to change myself, a way to make tangible things and a new way to communicate with others. I was rejected many times by online competition ( I stopped doing them, nonsense if you think about it), by many average London galleries too. More recently I decided to curate my own show from A to Z ( thank you Clare your precious PA ) I took a big risk: if my work was not bought at all, I could not just accuse a gallery or the economy…Thanks god my art was accepted, and bought and I felt thought them partly adopted. I am 48 and that is my first success. When rejection happens its just bad, like receiving a big stone in the stomach.
    One thing I want to tell you Clare again; It’s your writing, the eyes you got on things, adult yet very opened and so sensitive. I just love answering to your post because you know how to make people comfortable, sharing with you as you have share with us. That is where your talent is, in your lines, that make people feel they are not alone. No child can do this, maturity is a good things after all.
    I like (and am good at) playing the child, doing things that an adult should not do ( like jumping childishly when I am happy in the middle of an airport, having moustache of chocolate ice cream and laughing like mad) . If I look at my childlike behaviours I can see that I am just defending my Fears, lets say that when I don ‘t know how to express my feelings in an appropriate way, then I jump or laugh or cry like a child.
    It’s ok sometimes but If I want to be accepted and not rejected because different then one has to make choices. I was a child and to tell you the truth I prefer 100 times to be the adult I am today.

    • eethree Says:

      Hi Lorraine and thank you for such an eloquent and heartfelt reply. I can see that you understand much about what makes us who we are. I take on board all you say about fear and pride and i think you’re right.

      I have, you’ll be pleased to hear, come to the conclusion re the pitch that it wasn’t the right time for me – I think I hurtled out of work into the open air and grabbed the first thing that came past – out of fear. But I’ve let it go and now recognise that I need to give myself some time to think and actually some time to just be.

      I hope I can discover my future creative direction – and thank you for suggesting it could be writing. I’m really not so sure though; I don’t think I could write about anything but the contents of my own navel in which I spend so much time ferreting.

      The last word here must go to you and your recent success. Seven paintings sold at your self-mounted solo show. Amazing. Inspiring. Deserved. Congratulations. X

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