Monthly Archives: February 2023

Didi/ Bahini

Two young women smile at me from over 15 years ago. Kopila and I are both a bit vague about dates but we do clearly remember the occasion when we met in Dharan in eastern Nepal.. I was on the verandah of a friend’s house where we were staying while we sussed out the details of our eventual move to Nepal. I was making small sari clad figures and she came to visit our friend. She saw me and wondered what I was doing.  I shared wth her and we made earrings together and that’s how it all began! Not Samunnat Nepal which had already begun, but my role in the group.

I have lost track of the number of times I have come to Nepal since my first visit in 1976. Once, you had to keep a tally for entry requirements when you flew in and I recall that when it got to more than 40 I just guessed. But I’ve flown here definitely more than 40 times, which is pretty amazing!

I look at  the faces of these two young women and think several things. One is that I am so glad we can’t see the future! If you had foretold either of us then about some of the things that happened in intervening years, we’d have wondered how we’d survive. There’s been some big stuff. Often somewhat relentless, big stuff. But we’ve survived. Not always classily, often messily,  and in our own funny ways, but we’re still standing….And my survival has been helped by what happens here in Nepal. Getting together, talking, walking, working, crying, laughing, making, reading, picking ourselves up and starting again wth a bit more knowledge, bit more experience, bit more wisdom. And quite a few more grey hairs in my case!!

The other thing that I thought about is my enormous good fortune in making that connection with Kopila and Samunnat. Anyone who knows me, knows what a huge part of my life this is. And through the big stuff, Kopila, the people of Samunnat Nepal and the purpose and meaning that being a part of Samunnat gives, has been part of what sustains me. So…to Kopila bahini, all those who have been involved in Samunnat over the years and all the bahini haru….dhanyabad!*

One of us in particular is looking a bit more weathered in this recent photo but we still talk non stop when we get together!!

*None of them read this blog but I tell them regularly anyway!

Wriggle room and wanderings!

My friend, Genevieve suggested that the word margin might be more appropriate than the word laziness which I talked about here. Having margins is about building rest or spaciousness in to your every day life. Not just heaving a sigh of relief if something is cancelled! It’s about NOT giving 110% (how I hate that phrase!)  Allowing margin is having some wriggle room.

She also mentioned that her daughter (clearly gentle wisdom runs in this family) talked about the rhythm of a day needing to be like inhaling and exhaling. She wrote Inhaling being working, producing, cooking, learning, active thinking… And exhaling being exercising, napping, just sitting and doing nothing. Each day needs both

Like Gen, I realised that there’s not much exhaling going on sometimes. And precious little wriggle room. For rest, or error or anything else! Yesterday evening, amidst packing for Nepal, packing up our house, racing through the lists in my brain, I saw Mal on the deck feeding his beloved gang gangs. Exhaling. I stopped whatever it was I was doing and joined him to sit on the steps with seed in my hands. Two birds came and fed as ten or so others swooped around impatiently. We were still and quiet and happy. It was lovely.

I don’t think I’m alone in struggling with building in spaciousness. I recently ran my traditional New year classes. Some glorious women and I met together and talked about the kind of qualities we’d like to bring into our year; what we’d like more of….things like rest, self-kindness, connection, pauses, freedom, creativity. Things that are harder to experience in days without margins. We talked about how tough we are on ourselves; how we pressure ourselves to be perfect. We chatted and read and played and made shards which we used to create a piece, like a talisman, to wear as a reminder of our hopes and intentions. I’ve included a few photos of these beautiful and significant creations with this post!

All things being equal, as you read this I’ll be in Nepal again. This time travelling with a polymer holy trinity! Kathleen Dustin, Cynthia Tinapple and Ron Lehocky are heading to Nepal to visit the women of Samunnat. I’m meeting Kathleen in Kathmandu on Sunday and the other will join us in Birtamod.  Kathleen, Cynthia and Ron are a very significant part of the Samunnat family and I am so excited that they will finally be THERE to see how things roll! And to be felicitated to within an inch of their lives! I’ll be posting photos on Instagram at (My Insta swansong I suspect!)

The importance of noticing

Recently I heard Helen Garner talk about her life and writing. She reflected that writers probably have an overdeveloped sense of noticing. Not just writers! I reckon most artists do. When I’m in Nepal or on my walks in the bush, I feel like my noticing skills are more finely tuned. It may be because the situation is novel, and I am so grateful to be there. But I also suspect in these contexts, I’m more curious and open. I’m actively looking with an intention to notice, rather than just blindly moving through my environment.

The author Verlyn Klinkenberg is big on noticing! He writes:

…everything you notice is important. Let me say that a different way: If you notice something, it’s because it’s important. But what you notice depends on what you allow yourself to notice…

…start by learning to recognise what interests you…what you notice is important and it’s important because you noticed it. What if you pay attention to the pattern of the way you notice the world around you? What if you pay attention to the perceptions that you have and the character of them, and trust their validity?

I suspect that part of discovering your voice as an artist is to  notice what you notice. When I do this, I create with more intention. Or more congruent intention. Intention that goes beyond making stuff to sell. (And for a fascinating discussion on intention tune in to Sage Bray’s not surprisingly terrific podcast here!) For example, when I am making something and am surrounded by a pile of pods and seed heads, or fabulously textured Nepali cloth, I am more likely to get into that state of flow and the products feel very congruent. Writing and teaching classes that go beyond teaching techniques but explore the connection between creativity and life always feel more fun and authentic. The photos I have used for this post show just a few of the pieces that I have made over the years that have felt like that. Different from one another, perhaps not all recognisably from the one maker, but all united in that they arose from deep noticing!

And Genevieve….wow did your thoughts about margins and exhaling prompt some thinking and lots of discussion! More on that soon!!