Form One Lane

Blazing a creative trail out of decline

The radio announcer mentioned Spring: “It’s the days before Spring”, she said. It’s the only explanation for my sudden rush around the house, pulling covers off cushions and shoving them into soapy water. That, and the fact that the suns’ out.

My Year of Sweat Squared hasn’t played out as planned. Last year’s Year of Sweat was a success, but I thought I could push it a bit further. It didn’t work for two reasons. First, my feet kept pulling me up. If it’s not one, it’s the other. I’m off to the podiatrist on Wednesday as a first step (pun intended) on a rest-of-my-life journey to keep my feet on the ground. I will not give up my bush walks.

Second, after four years of combining work and study, a lot of things needed tidying and rejuvenating. The garden was tired. My studio was tired. The pantry was tired. My office was tired. It’s not just that the physical spaces were in need of work. Nothing sang to me anymore. I needed some rejuvenation as well.

Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t think of anything fresh for the new Year Of theme.

So … now … it’s the days before spring. Eight months of the year have passed. Where am I up to?

The garden is much improved. Plants have been re-potted. New plants bought for previously empty pots. Vegetable garden is up and running again. The shed is cleared out, but still needs a clean out.

The studio is functional again. My office is part way there, but still a way to go. The pantry is … well, one shelf is done.

Those four years weren’t a total decline. I managed to keep a few things ticking along while burrowing my way through books and journals. I got a bit of sewing done, although that was more by necessity than desire. I learnt a lot about digital photography. And I re-established my love for jigsaws.

And therein lies a very important point. Even though great chunks of my life were stagnating, I kept the light burning. It wasn’t a blazing bonfire, but it was enough to keep my creative spirit alive.

So this weekend, in honour of Monday’s First Day of Spring, I’m reinvigorating my rejuvenation after the winter slow down. The cushion covers are off. Furniture is being moved. And another jigsaw will be finished.

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Will doubling my fibre intake reduce my allergy symptoms?

The internet is useless. I tried to find some information on vinegar and all I got was hordes of links to apple cider.

Over the last 18 months I’ve been looking out for information about the digestive system – the world of the gastro. I even tried emailing ABC’s Catalyst program with a request. I hoped to be another name on a possible petition that would eventually prompt them to do a story on the latest research. But there must have been lots of names because we got more than just a 10-minute story. We got two half-hour episodes, Gut Reaction Parts 1 and 2.

The central theme of the two episodes was the relationship between fibre and the micro biome (ie gut bacteria). The surprise take-home message was the amount of fibre … 50g per day was mentioned. That’s double the currently recommended dietary intake of 25-30g.

I’m going to give it a try. My aim is to find out if 50g of fibre a day will decrease my allergy symptoms. It would be a bonus if the extra fibre had a positive impact on my EOE and hayfever.

That will sound bizarre to many, but I’ve already worked out that improved gut health has a positive impact on my emotional resilience. I’ve already experienced the bizarre. The only rule I have for these experiments is that I should do myself no harm. According to Better Health Victoria, I can increase fibre intake without increasing kilo joule/calorie intake, but I should do it slowly.

Spring is not far away, so I’d better get started.

Unfortunately, even if it works, I’ll only be able to say “It could be the case” and only then if it’s a bad season and I’m obviously not suffering like everyone else.  Unfortunately, the down side of that scenario, eveyone else would have suffered through a bad season.  Sorry.

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Oh, and the vinegar … some of the researchers mentioned on Catalyst claimed it fixed asthma in mice. One researcher attributed his decline in puffer usage to it. But it could be a blood thinner and not everyone can cope with foods that thin the blood. Use with care.

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Related Posts

♦  EOE

♦  Exercise and Depression

♦  Exercise, Cortisol and Caffeine

References and Links

♦  Transcripts for the Catalyst episodes:  Gut Reaction Part 1  http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4067184.htm; Gut Reaction Part 2  http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4070977.htm

♦  Information on serving sizes and number of serves per day:  http://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/files/the_guidelines/n55g_adult_brochure.pdf

♦  Better Health Victoria Fibre Factsheet:   http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Fibre_in_food

Playing for Creativity

“Creativity is a greater predictor of later success than IQ”, the presenter announced. “But do we teach creativity out of our kids?” My ears are provoked into action whenever the word creativity bouncing across from the TV. This time it was from ABC’s “Life at 9″.

They defined creativity as more than an artistic ability. Instead, it’s the ability to “step into life’s problems”.  We usually have to work through lots of possible solutions before we get to a decent one.  Giving up doesn’t help.

I particularly noted the idea that creativity involves a willingness to make mistakes and a deliberate non conformance. (I then personally noted all the problems I could create if I applied those two attitudes 100%.) Yet, I believe that creativity is an essential life skill. We must be willing to make mistakes (which doesn’t mean spending the day happily making them!), and answers are sometimes found only when we look “outside the box” (bearing in mind that the Rule of Law has a purpose).

The program mentioned the tremendous focus we place on performance these days – at school, at work, even during weekend down time running around on the sports field. This focus on performance reduces our play time. And therein lies the problem, because it is play time that enhances our creativity. (Notice how I don’t equate sport with play! The ref’s whistle is a sure indicator that non-conformance will not be tolerated.)

The take home message for me from “Life at 9″ was that we require time to let our imaginations roam. We must create opportunities to be creative.

My response

Every now and then, I manage to make something I really like. These spur me on. For example, I have a small, green, shell-like bowl that sits in the kitchen. It isn’t perfect, but I love to pick it up and run my fingers over it (after I’ve washed off the dust!).

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Green bowl

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I thought that being disciplined and organised would increase the number of successful pottery pieces that emerged from the kiln. Perhaps it would have, eventually. But as every potter will attest, you can’t always control for kiln meltdowns.

In response to what I’ve learned watching “Life at 9″, and in response to the stagnation that resulted after the kiln disaster last year, I’ve re-engineered my approach to my pottery practice. Out with any attempts at professionalism. In with play.

My space

Were you ever told to “Go outside and play”? It implies we need a lot of space. We don’t.

A space for experimenting with clay emerged in a corner of my home. It’s two paces square and filled with second hands. Second hand shelves. Second hand lamp. Second hand computer table that is now a work bench. Butcher’s paper, apron, towel and the rubbish bin all hang from a frame that has been re-purposed.  Even the high stool is not for sitting.  It’s just the right height for kneading the clay.

It seems I was already meeting the non-conformance criteria.

I have five pieces ready for the bisque kiln. They are a hotchpotch of forms made from four slabs of clay. One plate didn’t make it this far. That’s OK. I’m willing to make mistakes.

I wonder how many will survive through to the end?

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Does your hobby allow you space to play? Or does it bend your will to some form of ref’s whistle?

Following TED to where my heart sings

I thought TED was an actual bloke. I knew it wasn’t him giving all the talks. I’m not that silly. But I thought the whole thing was started by someone called Ted. Turns out, I am a bit silly. Turns out, TED Talks were started by a bloke called Richard.

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I’ve stuffed up my iron levels again. The day started bright enough, bouncing off the walls, getting through plenty of work, briskly walking during lunch. Pushed it just a bit too far. But I didn’t want to completely waste the afternoon; called into the uni bookshop, prepared to be enticed.

Forgot to take my glasses with me.

No surprise then that I came out with the biggest, brightest, simplest front cover facing up on the shelves.

Talk Like Ted Cover

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What makes your heart sing?

Page 20 and the confrontation starts. “Ask yourself: …” OK. I’ll play. I ask myself.

The answer is a hazy picture, a warm and fuzzy feeling, that I cannot translate into words. The picture is so hazy I cannot even work out where, or when, or what might have been happening.

I read on.

Page 21 and Matthieu Ricard is explaining that “happiness is a ‘deep sense of serenity and fulfillment’.” Now, any Australian who’s seen the Castle will probably be recalling Darryl Kerrigan’s fondness for a bit of serenity about now. Not surprising, given he lived next door to an airport. Once I get past the image of Darryl fighting to keep his home, I realise that my difficulty in locating and translating these moments is because they weren’t associated with specific events.

My heart sings in the in betweens; a realisation possibly triggered by remembering those moments in between the roar of planes in transition between land and air … just over Darryl’s back fence.

The author’s reason for encouraging us to track down this moment of song is to discover what we’re really really passionate about.

I’m not passionate about starting a jigsaw. I’m not even passionate about finishing a jigsaw. Instead, it’s those moments in between when the struggle is rewarded with a solution.

I’m definitely not passionate about kneading a new batch of clay. I’m rarely passionate about the end results that emerge from the kiln. Instead, it’s those moments of trying something different and seeing if it works and how it works, or even why it didn’t work.

It’s not about publishing a new post. It’s those moments when a sentence comes together, when a paragraph feels right, when a word emerges from some rarely entered recess of my brain.

Solving problems creates a deep sense of serenity and fulfilment. Please don’t tell the boss at work.

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Now this isn’t revelatory. I already knew I enjoyed solving problems. Not just my problems, either. I actually have to stop myself “solving” other people’s problems. I have a cup emblazoned with “You can’t teach a pig to sing. You only waste your time and annoy the pig.” I’d prefer the catchphrase to be less brutal. I don’t really think other people are pigs when they disagree with me. But I was drawn to the underlying sentiment of living life in a way that doesn’t annoy other people.

What I realised today is that this passion is not born of a need for approval. I tackle jigsaws by myself. I make pottery by myself. I write these posts by myself. Approval tends to be associated with the end product. My song is in the in betweens.

Now, I can see the thought bubbles popping up all over … “Isn’t arriving at a solution an event?” you ask. Even if it’s not the final end product, it’s an end product in itself. You have ARRIVED at a solution.

So I dig deeper.

For there to be a problem needing a solution, there must first be something I don’t know, don’t understand. To reach the solution, I must search, reflect, learn, ponder, marvel, engage.

I must explore.

I must be creative.

And therein lies my song;

in the in betweens.

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In Between

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Reference

GALLO, Carmine, 2014. Talk like TED: The 9 public speaking secrets of the world’s top minds. Published by Macmillan.

Corin Rd 2

Corin Road

It’s easy to solve a problem by moving the goal posts. It’s harder if there’s a rule you have to stick to.

When I started the Road’s Edge series, the rules were simple but strict. Stand on one side of the road. Point the camera directly across, ensuring that the opposite edge of the road sits along one edge of the frame. The aim was to create an image where the road played it’s part in the meaning. To that signature image I could add others to expand the story.

But then I found places where a different camera position was required and, consequently, the rules expanded in order to fulfill the aim of the series. Sometimes, the meaning is stronger if the rule is abandoned.

And sometimes I’m just lazy.

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Corin Rd 1

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On Corin Road that day, I could have walked further, or even drove back and forth, to find a spot where I could get the right proportion of orange to green. This angle shot wasn’t too bad but it didn’t grab the overwhelming sense of it, the immersive experience of it, the abrubt contrast that confronted you when driving through the area.

Maybe on this occasion the meaning IS better expressed in a different viewpoint.

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Corin Rd 2

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The clearing of this vegetation has at least two benefits, as far as I can tell. First, the road now serves as a fire break for a larger range of fire types. A very important point in this area.  Second, we can see the wallabies in plenty of time to avoid hitting them. I can attest to that second point.

Unfortunately, my two Road’s Edge photos haven’t captured the relatively small proportion of bush involved.  Maybe I need to invest in a drone!  That would get my camera to the position required to really tell this story.

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Corin Rd 3