I love how art journalling helps me integrate so many different experiences.

Layer after layer, built up day after day with words and images and textures.

This page combines:

  • Tissue paper texturing techniques and the notion of making layers in response to life’s every changing landscape – which I explored in Malini Parker’s workshop here in Melbourne in November.
  • Creating a base layer of words – which I learned from Connie Solera’s 10 day introductory series.
  • Meditating on a phrase – a poem that I heard Mary McKenzie read on her six week self-empathy webinar.
  • My own whims! – a painted card that I chopped up to collage a little house on the top layer, and adding words and tea leaves to the lower layers … because those ideas ‘called’ me at the time.

I have particular gratitude for the poem Mary McKenzie shared, which I was meditating on as I created this spread over several days.

The poem is by Robert Francis. It’s the base layer of this page. His words popped to mind so often lately. Especially this part:

Come wake me up. Come any hour
of night. Come whistling up the road.
Stomp on the porch. Bang on the door.
Make me get out of bed and come
And let you in and light a light.
Tell me the northern lights are on
And make me look. Or tell me clouds
Are doing something to the moon
They never did before …

– extract from Robert Francis, “SUMMONS”

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Our family has experienced some intense challenges over these past few weeks. I felt so dependent on the compassionate understanding of others … and struggled with a sense of powerlessness about decisions being made by others, no matter how much we tried to be heard.

I’m pretty sure that times of agonising worry and raw vulnerability are part of the parenting journey for everyone.

Find me one parent who hasn’t spent at least one minute in their bed at night watching thoughts cross their mind and feeling their belly churn.

Knowing that other parents worry  helped me to feel less alone, however I was also in some despair about how intense it can be. Other people’s pain isn’t so comforting when you’re in the throes of your own. Try telling a woman in labour “hey, you’re not the only one going through this” … it’s not exactly what helps in that moment.

The craving I had for relief and reassurance was intense and seemed so often out of reach. This seems to be more a time of accepting limitations and having compassion and understanding.

“Just being there” to hear and accept myself and those close to me was a huge task.

Oh, how we love our kids. Oh, how we want their safety and belonging and happiness.

During this time, the poem kept knocking at my own door. That phrase about “stomp on the porch” and “… tell me clouds/are doing something to the moon the moon/They never did before”.

So often over the past few weeks, as I was tuning into my own feelings and needs, my eyes would be drawn a sound or sight of beauty in nature  … or to the awe of looking at my children’s faces when they’re absorbed in something … or to the peacefulness of one of our cats napping in the sun.

Robert Francis’ poem helped me to inhale those moments, savour, delight in the beauty that I so often walk right by or sleep straight through.

And in savouring those moments, my eyes and lungs opened wider for more joy and perspective and hope. I truly am in awe about how much is right there, so often, even when things aren’t the way I want them to be.

On Saturday morning, I thought of this poem again. I woke an hour before my alarm, thoughts racing.

I saw light on the ceiling. The sun would be rising. I could reframe this jolting awake. Instead of fretting about ‘broken sleep’ I realised I could celebrate that I was alert, present, savouring the world, drinking up a moment that has never been and will never be again.

I tiptoed down the hallway and looked outside. We were staying in a lodge in the Victorian alps. Sunlight was melting over the yellow-green mountainside. The sky was yolky yellow and deep pink. A patch of yesterday’s snow was holding fast to the mountain peak. Right beneath my window, tiny finches were calling and leaping from branch to branch.

I felt so thankful to have been woken up. To be awake. To be aware of what was precious to me – even if that alertness means noticing my deep concern about someone so dear to me, I am also wide awake to drinking in the beauty of life.

I reckon those moments of widening awareness to my own experience also mean I am also able to be present to my children.

And, some of that relief and peace that had seemed so beyond me just moments earlier … was right here, now.

I could have compassion for the part of me that was thinking ahead – oh how much we long for our children’s wellbeing. And I could have appreciation for the beauty of now, and receive its gifts more fully.

Keep me from going to sleep too soon
Or if I go to sleep too soon
Wake me up …
– extract from Robert Francis, “SUMMONS”

I tell myself, I’d rather feel it all – to be wide awake, in awe, heart open, drinking in beauty, eyes ever curious knowing there is peace and wonder and care, even alongside pain.

Can you relate to any of this too? Would you rather be numb – or experience fuller joy, even if that means being aware of sorrow too?