Fern & Oak


No mud, no lotus

2016 has been a pretty intense year. I find it’s so easy (at least for me, but I suspect a lot of other people too) who have had particularly challenging years to focus on the bad, the painful and the traumatic. Sometimes it’s hard to look back and remember all the good things that happened, especially those magical little moments, those sparks of joy that embed themselves deep into your soul.

Every years there’s pain of sorts - I won’t go into my own pains for this year, as that’s not what this post is about, but every year as well there is light, and love and good. After all, how can you really and truly appreciate happiness and joy  if there is no sadness or sorrow in contrast? Light can’t exist without dark, and dark can’t exist without light. I’m a big fan of mantras and affirmations, and two have been very significant for me over the past 11 months:

No mud, no lotus
This too shall pass

The second one I relate to both bad and good experiences - nothing is permanent, even the good times. That’s why we have to honour, treasure and acknowledge all the moments in our lives in order to actually live. I’m still working in this, it’s by no means an easy path and I don’t pretend to have all the answers, What I do know, is that art helps me achieve this. For me, my art is not all about making pretty pictures, it is cathartic. Deeply cathartic. And a lot of paintings this year have been born from a strong urge, a need to process and release. Essentially, art is my soul’s medicine.  

It became pretty clear to me a few weeks ago that I was already winding down for the year and looking to the next. I wanted this year to end, so I can start afresh. The possibilities of a new year, a new start. How magical. How freeing. But, also kind of sad. Every day is a blessing and it pained me that I was so keen and eager to wash away the rest of 2016. To move on and forget how shitty the year has been. Upon this realisation, it was obvious very quickly that it was because I was very fixated on all the crap that happened in 2016. All the bad. All the mud.

So, I went to art for catharsis. I didn’t want to focus on mud, I wanted to celebrate lotus. So, I took pen to paper and wrote down for each month that had passed all the good things that happened. I went through my social media backlog and my photos to help trigger and remind me of the good memories and poured my soul out onto the page. And fuck, it felt good. And lots of good things happened to me and lots of love was abundant. Big good things happened, like finding solace on an art retreat, watching my youngest brother graduate from University, resting and rejuvenating and partying in different countries. And small good things happened too. A delicious meal, an invigorating thunderstorm, the feeling of my feet in the ocean.

It was like a light turned on.

And it was really soothing, and very healing.

I played with my list, I soaked it in soothing green watercolours and collaged images over the top, turned it upside and painted on it. I emblazoned my word for 2016 (Explore) on it and I breathed a bone deep sigh of relief. I got through my mud and blossomed into my lotus.

I’m not saying that I now believe 2016 was the best year of my life. What year ever is? My life might be measured in years, but it’s built up by experiences, by moments. And sure, there’s been some fucking spirit crushing experiences that I’ve endured this year, but that’s been balanced by some truly wonderful and joyous ones. Looking back, I’m not going to be blinkered and hobbled by the mud - I will acknowledge it, I will remember it, but I won’t be all encompassed by it. I choose to honor 2016 with light, as well as dark. With mud and with lotus.