Don't you love that question?!! I never know how to answer. I've been practising being more concise and interesting, but what I usually say is…
"Well, I do two things. I'm an artist and I exhibit my work in Melbourne and Brisbane. And I help people grow organic food with a blog and online training course."
What I really do though, is chase 'Flow'.
When I was 18, I began preparing my portfolio for art school. The trouble was, I was terrified of making marks on a page. I'd pretty much lost my creativity when my parents divorced three years earlier. It just fell away, probably somewhere with my joy and sense of safety. Returning to art was like courting a lover who'd rejected me. Painful. Full of doubt. Fear I'd be rejected again. "You're not good enough, you can't do this," I heard whispered over and over in my mind.
So I found a mentor. He was an older artist. Worldly. Wayward. Mysterious. Fun. Temperamental. He showed me how to put my ego aside and just dive in. Experiment. See what happened. Don't take it personally. But do show up. Make marks. Put the time in. Don't run in fear of failure. And don't take it so seriously – like my life depended on it. Because it felt like it did.
Surprisingly, I found an amazing thing. When I did as he said (had a glass of wine and sat down to draw), I touched on an experience that has woven its way through my life ever since.
Flow :: Presence :: Bliss :: Groove
"Whenever there is enthusiasm, there is a creative empowerment that goes far beyond what a mere person is capable of." – Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
Professor Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi calls it Flow. Buddhists call it Mindfulness. Eckhart Tolle calls it Awakened Doing. Joseph Campbell calls it Bliss.
Twyla Tharp calls it Groove. In her book The Creative Habit (which I love, and highly recommend, by the way), she says:
"A groove is the best place in the world. It's where I strive to be, because when you're in it you have the freedom to explore, where everything you question leads you to new avenues and new routes, everything you touch miraculously touches something else and transforms it for the better."
Ever since those days preparing my portfolio, I've wanted more flow in my life. For me, flow is when time takes on another quality. You're so absorbed in the task at hand, it feels like time doesn't exist.
But flow doesn't just happen in the fine arts. Flow exists in preparing a garden bed. Transforming lawn into abundance. It can be found in a well-stocked garden shed. And a box of your favourite seeds.
Flow visited me this weekend in the veggie patch.
Time flew. The world didn't exist outside of my immediate environment. I didn’t have a plan. Instead, one action led to the next. I pulled down the old Madagascar bean, like shedding an old self image. The abrupt nakedness of the bamboo teepee shocked and excited me. I prepared the ring of soil around the base with nitrogen-rich green leaves and weeds, then layered compost, and finally hay soaked in molasses and water. Then I parted the hay like a skirt and planted snow peas.
It was all good. I went outside to check my handiwork at 9pm and the naked teepee, with her new upside-down skirt, glowed in the full moon.
It can catch you unawares. But only if you are prepared and show up.
- Put on your gloves.
- Get into the habit of composting (so it’s ready, when you are).
- Find yourself some seeds to play with.
- Go outside.
Nicola Chatham is an organic gardening teacher, permaculture designer and contemporary artist. Her Grow Organic Food in Pots course starts next week and enrolment closes in just over three days. I'm happy to promote and recommend Nicola's online courses because her first course, the Abundant Veggie Patch System, which I paid for, has transformed my garden and my way of thinking. I love her approach. I've enrolled on Grow Organic Food in Pots (especially as Nicola is covering worm farming this time) and would love for more people to join me! If you want to read more about Nicola's online course, pop your email address here and Nicola will send you all the details.
Joining in with Rachael's Garden Journal.