Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Landscape of Imagination

I mentioned that I had begun reading "The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh: A Walk thru the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood" by Kathryn Aalto

It's a wonderful peek into the world of Winnie the Pooh's creator, A.A. Milne and the landscape, childhood memories and characters (his own son, Christopher Robin, and his stuffed animals that became the characters) that bring to life the Pooh books we all know.

I want to share a passage with you and then, a realization it opened for me.

In recent years, there has been concern that the very nature of childhood has changed. People have begun questioning if there has already been a "last generation" to play outside.  In "Last Child in the Woods", author Richard Louv writes about the modern disconnection between children and nature and the importance of providing children some autonomy in the natural world. "Whatever shape nature takes, it offers each child an older, larger world separate from parents. Nature can frighten a child too and this fright serves a purpose, too. In Nature a child finds freedom, fantasy and privacy, a place distant from the adult world, a separate peace."

When we are young, tramping through forests also leaves footprints on paths well into our adulthoods.

Throughout the writing of this book, for example, I heard laments from grandparents and parents about the diminishing range our children are now allowed to wander. Milne's childhood and his stories are touchstones of a paradise lost, of a bygone time that many - writers, psychologists, parents - believe is important in the development of a child. with these rising concerns over the nature of childhood itself, Milne's books offer a reminder about the importance of freedom in nature.

And that took me into thinking, as I so often do, about my own childhood.

I often say I grew up in a city, which I did.  A large industrial eastern US steel town. One decaying under the weight of the loss of those mills and industry. And many of my childhood experiences and the process of "becoming" are tied to very city-like adventures. Riding streetcars by myself, exploring downtown and all the people and activity of a city. But I immediately recognized something that I now feel so eternally grateful for. That in the midst of the urban life, I was fortunate to have woods, dense tree covered hillsides, (under which old mines lay) on either side of the house that I spent much of my childhood in. Entire days were spent exploring, making tree-houses (even if many of them were just a board slung through the branches to sit upon), following birds and squirrels, digging, climbing and creating worlds apart from the ones of my family and their adulthood. Time to be whatever and whoever I dreamed of being.

Much of what I write about in the short stories I am working on came from those childhood experiences and the imagination that the time. A mix of city experiences like "pitching nickels" with school friends against buildings and walls downtown. And also the woodland adventures scouting from treetops and crossing imaginary bogs and quicksand pits. Hiding from trolls under large spruce trees. . .

But to choose, one or the other? It's not even a question. The woods were far far more important to my future self.

The freedom of nature.

A separate peace.

And there was much in the world around me to necessitate that peace, that break from the slip-slide into adulthood.

Even today, my conversations with my own mother, who never had such a childhood and who I used to think of as being so overprotective but who, in comparison to many parents today would have been seen as very permissive, tend to be fraught with her lamenting the daily decline of the world around her. The news blaring from her tv all day long. And me, with no tv at all, no social media feeds, no newspapers. . . still the dreamer and believer, and every day seeking a deeper connection to that childhood me instead of that adult "other".

Maybe part of the problem is that it's the adults who forget and who become so lost in the very ideal of their own adulthood and it's many pitfalls and traps, that childhood seems eons away. Like a distant dream nearly unattainable now.

Or maybe more and more adults are coming from a childhood that lacks that time in nature, that freedom, that ability to develop those skills of nature's teaching?

I am saddened by the way kids become more screen bound and less independently imaginative with each passing year. I see it in the small town I live in, one surrounded with woods, blackberry patches, out of the places all bordering an expansive estuary/coastline/bay. The computers at the library are always in use. . . while many, many great and inspiring books, graphic novels and natural resources are not.

People defend this modern age as just the changing of the times and I do not disagree. Change is a given. . . but that simplified view asks us to accept that all change is, or can be, good, and that all change has an equal exchange within it of what is lost and gained.

It does not.

Losing the natural world, the freedom to explore, the ability to develop self-taught skills and stir imagination from within. . . there is no substitution for those.

All this is to say I never gave those woods, that space I had growing up, it's due. I took it for granted as just being part of the landscape but see now, thru the eyes of Pooh's creator, how very important it truly was. My own little "Hundred Acre Wood".

I see how it just being there for me each and every day amid the grind, noise and weight of the city, and of impending adulthood, was more important than I could have ever known.

Thank you for reading,


I imagined building little cottages like this in my own childhood woods/forest many times.

Friday, July 1, 2016

New Work - July 1st

Well June certainly went by in a whirl. . .

Ok, quick update. I spent much of the month cramming in custom orders left and right, and was very happy to do so knowing that most of (I say "most" because I never hit all the deadlines just so) July, August and September are mine to do as I wish! Which is to say, stocking both Etsy shops as much as possible for the season to come and exploring many, many new ideas!

Even with the load of custom work, I had a great month with so many fun requests and the satisfaction of all the completed projects that did get out.

And the writing of the short stories is taking shape nicely too. Still too early to share anything but soon, I promise!

I joined a site called 750 Words which is for writers who want to get into the habit of writing every day. I promised myself I would write at least 5 times a week and the goal being 750 words each time.( about 5 pages in book form) So far I have exceeded the required 750 every day I have written, sometimes doubling it.

It feels so good because the most intimidating thing for me when I began is that the idea of writing with a project/goal in mind seemed just overwhelming at times. When would I find the time? How could I ever write complete stories?

All the world-building has paid off though as so many of the ideas and little details are already fleshed out. . . and new ones arrive every day to continue the creation process. Now I think my biggest worry is "How will I know when I have enough?" and "Will I be able to stop?" :)

Also this week, as a treat to myself, I took an afternoon and went to our county's main library. We have a branch in our little town and via the internet can have any book in the system sent to us here in a day or two but it is literally a one room operation. . .  though it's one room filled with books! :)

Still, I love to hit the main branch once in awhile to spend time just browsing and reading. I found two books on the "New" shelf that are completely inspiring to me as I go about writing. One is called "The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh" and is about the landscape and locations within the actual forest that inspired the Hundred Acre Wood of those Winnie the Pooh stories. The other, is called "Ivory Vikings" and is about the set of Ivory chess pieces discovered in the 1830's, that date to Viking times and the identity, skill and artistry of the woman who, in all likelihood, carved them. It's a grand peek into the 400 year history of the viking sea trade as well.

More on all that another time. . .  the month left me with quite a few pieces to show for my monthly new work post so I hope you'll enjoy!

Cottage from another town of the Pine, named Sylvan, with their crooked chimney stacks.

And I love little gabled, nooks (for reading or spell practicing) of houses so I add them often to mine. :)

Finally getting these back in the shop this summer. I needed a better support design for such skinny, wonky, top-heavy houses. The metal door charms help and a thicker but flexible wire inside. Trial and error. . . and more trial and error. lol

These are not "new" actually but the addition of the long "meadow grass" growing on top of each level is. 
An original Anubis Amulet. I've been working on making functional, smaller amulets while still trying to get decent detail. Not easy in polymer but my confidence with it keeps growing.

Chatsworth Village (Alpine) Houses I mentioned last month. The available selection is starting to grow!

This may be one of my favorite anthropomorphic pieces that I have ever completed. Thoth, the Ibis headed deity of creativity, time and writing.

Another Mushroom House!
A fine garden Gargoyle, named Callalla, for watching over ones magic gardens!

and finally, a custom pair of statues. . .  this is Nephthys and Sutekh (or the Set animal), both based on traditional statues and styles from antiquity.
Sooooo, that's it for now! Wishing you all a lovely weekend and an enchanted summer season as July opens before us!

Thank you, as always, for dropping by!