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  • Writer's pictureMonique Sliedrecht

Drifting with Purpose


A friend sent me this article in the NY Times, which is very eye opening and interesting on many levels, and somewhat reassuring. I thought I'd reflect on some of the questions myself and on the pandemic year that we've had.

I wonder what your responses would be to these 7 questions?

Here are mine....


What’s one thing you made in this year?

I created a few combines, and made lots of starts on new pieces.

I began writing a column for the local paper (‘Northern Drift’) and made a podcast called ‘Tales from the North’.

I also tried some new dishes which was fun, and we created a garden at the Freswick Castle bungalow, enjoying the potatoes sown from that long into the winter. I think we will be eating our last potatoes from that bumper crop today!

Saying all that, I think there was too much pressure to produce and create, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. The pressure came from inside and outside. Too many people said to artists and writers 'This must be a very creative time for you.' In reality this was an important time to let ideas percolate and germinate - to trust that this is always happening and new creative ideas are developing, despite what we think or feel. Many artist friends found it difficult to work and I sympathise, but once an artist, always an artist.

What art have you turned to in this time?

Poetry, mainly that of Mary Oliver, Kathleen Jamie, and Robert Robinson.

And currently I’m watching the French series ‘Le Bureau’. I love French. That is one thing I would have liked to learn more of in this time… maybe I still will.

I’ve also enjoyed watching Grayson Perry’s Art Club. It’s warm and uplifting, and very moving at times too. It really speaks of the power of art in troubled times.

Did you have any particularly bad ideas?

Maybe not bad ideas, but just far too many! I've had to be realistic and pull back.

What’s a moment from this year you’ll always remember?

The overall sense of being present to the environment around me, the seasons, and the details in those things.

Finding a rhythm in nature, and a structure that brings shape to the days and to me as a person; and being true to oneself.

But also, just being in the space and times of so-called ‘boredom’ and letting thoughts drift. Drifting with purpose.... Is that possible? Anyway, that space and time has been a gift.

To be honest I’m not really sure that I easily get bored; Lonely and restless sometimes, yes. But bored? Well, something always comes out of boredom if we let it.

I remember when I was young and my childhood friend, Erika, and I would play together. Sometimes our afternoons would start with a conversation:

‘I’m bored. What do you want to do?’

‘I don’t know. What do you want to do?’

‘I don’t know…. What do you want to do?’

‘It’s your turn to come up with an idea….’

[This short animated video clip is a humorous depiction of the same conversation.]

Inevitably, my friend and I would come up with something to do before the afternoon was up, whether that was creating a little house with the fridge box that was left in the laundry room, or recording our own news programme on cassette tape, or riding our bikes and starting a club with the neighbour kids, or listening to a record. I think I can say that almost every time we got bored, something creative came out of that.

So-called ‘boredom’ is not something we should be afraid of, also for our children.

Me (left) and Erika (right)

Did you find a friendship that sustained you artistically?

Yes. Two or three actually, and I’m so grateful for that.

If you’d known you’d be isolated for so long, what would you have done differently?

I might have got a better laptop sooner! And as a result, I might have tried to work out zoom and different means of communicating earlier, building that into my days a bit more solidly.

I would have got back into playing the piano again - but there's still time!

And maybe worked out a structure or plan for painting, writing, communicating, etc. However, in many ways a new structure and understanding of how I work best came out of this time. Hard to explain, but it’s been a revelation for me. I believe this has actually been a foundational year for me and a platform to spring from unlike any other. Well, here’s hoping, anyway…

What do you want to achieve before things turn to ‘normal’?

I want to have a few more podcast episodes under my belt, a start on a new writing project, a more organised office/work space, along with at least 3 finished paintings/combine pieces.

I would have liked to try sourdough baking at least once. (Yes, I’m a bit behind on that bandwagon).

I want to also become accustomed and settled into this new rhythm in my life so that I am not deterred or frazzled by sudden demands outside of myself.

And I want to be ready for that new place - to step into it with peace, prayer, and a new awareness of the natural world around me and ways I can be in it and live alongside it.


The Poet Dreams of the Mountain

- Mary Oliver -

Sometimes I grow weary of the days, with all their fits and starts. I want to climb some old gray mountain, slowly, taking the rest of my lifetime to do it, resting often, sleeping under the pines or, above them, on the unclothed rocks. I want to see how many stars are still in the sky that we have smothered for years now, a century at least. I want to look back at everything, forgiving it all, and peaceful, knowing the last thing there is to know. All that urgency! Not what the earth is about! How silent the trees, their poetry being of themselves only. I want to take slow steps, and think appropriate thoughts. In ten thousand years, maybe, a piece of the mountain will fall.


- Mary Oliver -

When it’s over, it’s over, and we don’t know any of us, what happens then. So I try not to miss anything. I think, in my whole life, I have never missed The full moon or the slipper of its coming back. Or, a kiss. Well, yes, especially a kiss.

Moon over Freswick Bay

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