An 'Alternative Life'. Something I have been giving a lot of thought to lately. Something I have been interested in for many years but never imagined I would actually embark on myself. An Alternative Life.
There was a time, not all that long ago, when I was completely conventional. I owned a house with my then husband, worked a fairly normal job, was reasonably financially secure. All the usual stuff.
Then, about 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer, which, being the embodiment of youth and health that I was, came as a bit of a surprise. I recovered from the cancer but the effect it had on my attitude to life was lasting and profound. Cancer, according to popular belief, 'changes' you. But it didn't change me at all. It did the opposite. It made me myself. And it made me brave.
My life is a little different these days to how it was 10 years ago. Rightly or wrongly, one way or another, I forced my way out of conventionality and began pursuing the things which truly made my heart sing. It was a long journey to get from there to here. My marriage buckled under the strain, I spent another stint in hospital having so-called 'preventative' surgery, I sold my house and moved to the other end of the country, I enrolled on and completed an MA, and I fell in love.
The journey is ongoing. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I'm currently taking the first steps on a new one, having recently graduated and taken stock.
At the moment I am busy working on a new set of drawings for an upcoming group exhibition in February, as well as setting up this website and blog. I have also given a lot of thought about the artist I am and what I want for my work, and how I am going to sustain those beliefs and ethics over a long period of time. A while ago, I stumbled across these words from Alan Watts (1915 - 1973), an English philosopher and writer who played a large part in popularising Zen Buddhism in the west, and they have stayed with me ever since:
What if Money Was No Object? ~ Alan Watts Lecture
"What do you desire? What makes you itch?
Alan Watts was clearly way ahead of his time with this kind of thinking. Sometimes, although less and less as the years go by, I feel quite alone in thinking that there must surely be alternatives to those that western society lays down for us. I'm pretty confident in thinking that there are a lot of people out there who dream of the alternatives but feel too trapped, for whatever reason, to make changes.
For making changes, big changes, is scary. It's terrifying. I should know. And as the experience of having cancer grows (thankfully) dimmer each year, I find myself having to dig deeper for yet more courage to pursue those dreams and passions, to keep on track despite the fear of poverty and the negative judgement of this increasingly right-wing society.
Still, I am a great believer in things coming into your life at the right time, just as long as you are open-minded enough to recognise them. Draw that deep breath, take that first step, whatever ... If you dare to put yourself out there, it is true that things will start to happen. You will meet the right people. You will find the right places ...
I first met Tim 20-odd years ago, in Cornwall, at art college. It is mighty strange indeed how life can take us round in a giant circle, but 20 years later we met again, in Cornwall, whilst I was at art college. This time, however, he had a boat.
Not a particularly fancy boat, by any stretch of the imagination, but just about as impressive and 'alternative' as they come ...
Tim and I got together for many reasons, but one of them was because of a shared passion for an alternative way of life. He is far more hardcore than me and is now enjoying his third winter on the boat. He's battled howling storms and sub-zero temperatures, but with a wood-burning stove now in place and an apparent immunity to seasickness, he could hardly be more content. After all, for every winter, there is a summer. And his days are his own.
I don't live on the boat, but I spend enough time there to have become completely besotted with it. It is a romantic, simple existence, though perhaps not for the faint-hearted, and Tim's story of the boat and how he came to sail it across the ocean from Ireland to Cornwall inspired my imagination so much that the tale seeped into my work, grew into a book, and eventually an installation replicating the inside of Albacore was created.
Albacore and Tim currently reside in a small community of other boat-dwellers in a beautiful, semi-forgotten corner of Cornwall. It is a place of magic. Of hidden creeks and beaches, ancient woods, ferocious storms and still, golden sunsets.
On The Estuary
I will be moving up there soon to help him with work on the boat and I can hardly wait. Fear of the future still persists, but I am learning to live one day at a time, to breathe, to enjoy the journey, and to stand by the life I believe in and the work I need to do. No life is perfect, and nor should we expect it to be. You have to make your choices, understand what you might be sacrificing and what you will be gaining because of those choices.
And then all you have to do is go out into the world and live them.
I am a ...
... Teller of Tales. A Creator of Books. An Artist, Illustrator and A Boatbuilder. A Professional Daydreamer, Occasional Mermaid, and always The Eternal Optimist.