A spontaneous moment of wonder

During this second lockdown I’ve been making sure to get outside as much as I can for walks in my local area, and making the most of the daylight hours. Like so many working from home at the moment, I can get lost in a task, only to look up and it’s already dark. The sunny days in November have felt extra precious this year. As I returned home from one of my walks one afternoon this week, and right before having to leave again for the school-run, the living-room was all a-glow with the afternoon sun beaming in. I walked to the back of the room to take a look at the garden and as I turned around, noticed that the entire room was not only glowing, but filled with dancing rainbows too – cast by a small host of tiny crystals we have hanging in the doorway. It felt magical! I was instantly reminded of the days when the children were tiny and the rainbows on the walls would be an enormous fascination. Those were happy memories. I stood in the doorway, lost for a few moments, in that same genuine, child-like wonder. Then I noticed the light shining through the star-shaped lantern that also hangs in the doorway – it was slowly twirling and the light cast through the holes onto the nearby bookshelves were not only magnified but gently flickering too. I had never noticed this happen before and also felt a sense of wonder at that; the totally natural effect was mesmerising with no electricity or fairy lights required! As I emerged from those moments lost in wonder and feeling happy, a thought occurred to me, right as I set out the door to collect my daughter…

I had a moment similar to this a few weeks ago when, nearing the end of another lockdown day and realising that I hadn’t been outside, I took some moments to climb up on a chair near my husband’s desk and look out through the v-lux skylight window. Being late afternoon, the sun was not far off going down, and beaming its final rays across the tree-tops. At that height – with a view looking down on the trees – I was able to see all the little bugs and insects that are usually invisible to us dancing around all golden and alight – like fireflies in the daytime. I stood there for a good five to ten minutes, really lost in the dance of the golden insects. For once I wasn’t really aware of the ‘thinking’, the voice in my head, or anything in particular other than being absorbed in the moment and having a familiar feeling of wonder and awe. I emerged from that daydreamy wonder-filled state feeling genuinely a bit uplifted and restored.

The magical moment when everything comes together

The thought that occurred to me as I was setting off to meet my daughter, was that this feeling of spontaneous, in-the-moment wonder and awe, is very similar to the feeling that I get after working on a creative project at the very point at which everything just comes together.

Not all parts of the creative process are always fun. Whilst it’s entirely possible to get lost in a deep sense of creative flow whilst painting, writing, dancing, making music, sewing, baking… whatever your chosen passion, there are also many times when things aren’t working so well. Maybe it’s the impatience – wanting to get to the end but having so many steps to get through to get there. Or frustration, if you just can’t get something to work the way you envision it. The critical voice, not liking what is being created along the way – because it isn’t finished yet and it’s hard to see the end. But, in my experience, those moments at the end of a project, when it is complete and the work is done, can be filled with wonder and satisfaction. It’s almost as if all the frustrating steps along the way are instantly forgotten – and the happier feeling of awe and contentment is allowed to take over even if just for a moment.

And these moments, fleeting and unpredictable as they are – can be truly uplifting and sustaining.

Catching just the right time of day and position of the sun to see the rainbows dancing on the walls perhaps fall into a more elusive category of moments that depend on a bit of luck and good timing to chase down, but embarking on a creative project – however small, or however ambitious, is something that is within the grasp of anyone who chooses. I do believe that all the tiny projects that I completed with the children when they were little, were something that got me through.

I have a memory of attempting to make canvasses with the hands and feet of the children – my daughter aged 4 months and my son 3 years. Things got messy! At one point, it was utter chaos, and the point at which my 3 year-old decided to climb into the bowl of soapy water in the middle of the living room floor, and splash about with bits of soaking newspaper flailing and paint getting pretty much everywhere, I thought “this is bonkers, what was I thinking” (of course, my strong-minded 3 year-old did not want to take no for an answer!).  There was one moment, however, not dissimilar to the moment this week of the rainbows on the walls, where I paused for breath (I might have done the 4-7-8 breathing technique had I known about it then), and saw my son, stood there in the light, in the bowl of water, with the sun shining through on him, having so much fun, and my baby in her bouncer, seemingly quite content, where I surrendered to the moment and embraced the fact that chaos it may be, but this is a ‘moment’, of chaos, and joy too. I’m not sure if he remembers it, but I do. As clear as if it were yesterday. I remember the feeling of triumph at having got through a whole day as a new mum of two with at least something imprinted onto a couple of canvasses (my son called his “ice-cream hands and feet” due to the jumble of creamy marbled colours he’d created) – and ultimately, the mess was tidied away and we all survived to tell the tale. Whenever I would look at the canvasses for years later, I would remember how monumental it felt at the time, just to achieve that small thing.

And from there, things grew. We made robots out of papier-mâché and our used raisin boxes. I carved out little moments where I could, to draw or colour/paint for myself. We had a ‘paint-a-pot’ birthday party when the children were 1 and 4. We made things from tissue paper, things in jars, painted on rocks… and each thing we created together felt like a small wonder. An achievement too. It didn’t matter to me really how “good” something turned out, it mattered that we made it through and had found even the tiniest bit of extra energy to get the materials out and make something.    

Happy Place and making room for wonder in the everyday

It is increasingly well-documented, that creativity and making things are good for mental and emotional well-being. I have no doubt that this sense of wonder, amidst the everyday, plays no small part.

I am also reminded of the ‘happy place’ tool, taught by Simone; just as we can allow our highly active imaginations to conjure bleak scenarios, we can also use them to create nourishing, positive scenarios that are enjoyable to visit in our minds’ eye and can be a safe place to nourish our souls. Crafting and making is one version of ‘happy place’ for me – not only does it make real so many things that otherwise stay in my imagination, but – the experience of wonder through making, feels nourishing in itself. It’s true that it does take a little extra energy to harness imagination in this way, as it also does to set up any craft project, but hopefully, the extra energy gained from doing so, is more than enough to make it worth the effort!

Small steps are enough

The Christmas season for many of us might offer a natural abundance of wonder-filled moments. I know that the highly commercial and manufactured moments of the season that can often leave many of us feeling the exact opposite, but some of the quieter, softer moments, which can include making some time to craft together, can hopefully be nourishing. There can be so much pressure and expectation, around making at this time of year, which can also have the reverse outcome of robbing us of some of the joy of Christmas craftiness.  In response to that, I always try to remind myself that small is beautiful and always enough.

That moment, when a project just comes together and is complete and ready to give, is still possible with even the simplest of projects. The sense of fulfilment and wellbeing, that can come from having made something with our own hands, can still be there; we can still feel the comfort that can come from having connected with our children when crafting together, and the sense of wonder from a finished project can still bring a sense of quiet joy – maybe even triumph!? Simply managing a hand-made Christmas card, or a window-full of hand-made paper-cut snowflakes can feel like the hugest success in the very busy years!  

And hopefully, with the pressure off a little, we can make the space for those more spontaneous moments of wonder that are perhaps always there trying to break through our day to reach us, if we have the time and a little mental space to find them.

In the spirit of simplicity, the children and I have made two short and easy craft tutorials with some suggestions for other things to try, here.

© Abigail Cole 2020

For more creative ideas visit www.forgetfulfairyartstudio.com

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