Friday, June 18, 2010

"To sit in the shade on a fine day..."

"...and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment." ~Jane Austen

Where do you turn to for peace and quiet? When your brain is numb with stress, when tasks that were easily handled along with a multitude of chores now seem to take hours even with a focused concentration. What do you do (besides sleep!) when it seems your brain is over-thinking and you are no longer following along with it? I go outside. Alone. I may go for a walk in a park-like setting (not in a city!), I might just lie in the grass watching the sky, or I might climb up a tree. But I go outside. It clears my head, makes me focus on things that are much bigger than me and my (mostly) silly little problems, and my mind slowly settles down. I often bring my journal with me and just write. I write whatever is on my mind, what I see in front of me, a good idea for a story, anything. I absorb, I write, I breathe, and it calms me. Whenever I'm feeling stressed, I have this incredible desire to be outside. To get away and just relax. Now, yoga has become another manner of de-stressing for me and I am excited that one day I'll do yoga outside. What could be better?

Recently, my desire to get outdoors led me to some interesting articles. (Hold on, I might wander a bit, but I'll get to the articles, I promise). I was thinking (while sitting at a desk desperate to be outside in a park with my journal, all by myself) about this behavior and how it seemed like forever since I had really been able to get outside. I really began to love the outdoors when I was 5 and we moved to a house in the mountains with a huge yard, fruit trees, some woods, caves, and lots of wild animals. I spent most of my time outside in a tree or under a tree writing and sketching to my heart's content. I never wanted to be in the house. I loved to read outside in the open field, getting lost in the book and feeling lost in the field at the same time. It occurred to me while sitting at the desk that I haven't been able to really do that since I was a kid. And I've been craving it like mad.

Thinking about this natural world I grew up in and wondering if everyone felt that way, I came across an article on preschools in the northwest U.S. states. (Check it out here) They spend all of their class time outside. Outside. This is the way of things in Europe but here in the U.S., it's rather new. There are no structures academics yet; after all, it's still preschool. But the instructors contend that they are learning so much more by being outside instead of trapped indoors all day being force fed math. They get creative and learn how to settle fights among themselves. No matter the weather (they've only missed one day when the snow was too high to walk in), the children are appropriately attired and accompanied outside by their teacher. And they love it. The article led me to the book "Last Child in the Woods" by Richard Louv, which I am currently reading. Now, there is a really good critique of his work here, but overall, I see his points. And I'm hoping some of these schools open up here in Western PA. Obviously, I can do a great deal of outdoor activities on my own with my eventual children but for them to be with their peers? Priceless. Check out the book if you can.

Around the same time, I came across a new blog post by Roger Ebert (who has an excellent blog, by the way) about the quest for frisson. He discusses his use of the internet and Twitter and how it's made us wired for the next buzz, essentially. We are constantly online to learn or do something more and more exciting. Our attention spans are decreasing (I've definitely noticed this in myself) and we just want more, faster. I have to say, this is exactly when I'm feeling the most overloaded and when I need to escape outside. To slow down and focus on one thing at a time. I wonder if this rewiring is beneficial in the long run or not. And when my eventual kids are begging for another hour on the video game system instead of going outside...No, scratch that. I hope that we integrate many interests into their young lives so that they enjoy a variety of activities without spending time on only one. And can enjoy it without me forcing them (too much of a positive hope?). After the Golden Rule, the 2nd Golden Rule should be "everything in moderation".

Well, it's Friday afternoon and soon enough it'll be time to head outside! Enjoy the weekend.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"It is not light that we need, but fire..."

" is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake."

Well now that the crazy whirlwind that sucked me up for a month and half has plopped me back down in my (very messy) house, I can heave a great sigh of...Relief? Contentment? Not the exact word I want, but somewhere close. I can destress, start sleeping again, and get back to my yoga classes and yard work. Life can return to normal. Whatever that is.

The festival. Since I know you're all dying to hear how it went. I would say it went well. I deliberately chose a small festival (with a low vendor fee), that was two blocks from my house because it was an easy first run. Plus I'm supporting my local community. Did this inhibit my sales? Very probably. Us Western Pennsylvanians do not like to spend lavish amounts of money if we don't feel it's worth it. And even then, are we likely to have that money? If I had been in downtown Pittsburgh or in one of the city's neighborhoods, I think it would have gone just a little better; but again, this was a test.

People really liked the leather journals and the Bookbags. Where I live, people are very frugal and so they didn't all buy one just because they liked it. But there were quite a number of people that asked about my online shop, any custom work I could do, and that took business cards. So would I say it was a success despite the fact that I would've liked to have sold more than I did? Yes. I got the word out and I got to see which products most people were interested in. I'll be taking some better photographs of what I have left to post on Etsy, but here is a simple one I managed to catch of my table. This wasn't the end arrangement, I was still playing around. But you get the idea. I had small and large soft-cover sketchbooks, soft-cover and hardback books, leather books, canvases, a few pieces of jewelry, and the Bookbags. It took a hell of a lot of time and effort to get this all together so quickly, but now I have a nice inventory to build on. I also had information on custom enclosures as well as packets of information for people to take on how to take care of their own private collections (always trying to share the info!).

It was also a test to see how I enjoyed participating in the festivals and to be honest, I'm not sure how I feel. When I had people that were really interested and asked questions, it was great. I love educating people on it and explaining the entire process, especially when some of them still didn't understand that they were hand-sewn, cased in, etc. They looked rather confused at the table as though asking, What are you selling? Did you buy books somewhere? But when people weren't interested, frankly it was boring. My wonderful hubby stayed the entire him (and carried all the heavy tables and boxes back and forth up the hill to our house) and kept me company, ensuring that we could both take breaks and walk around to look at the other tables. But we couldn't explore it together, which is what I really love doing at the festivals. He gets excited about the food and I get excited about...well, everything else! I think I'd rather participate in educational fairs and festivals, letting people know I can do custom work, and mostly just sell my items online.

Would I participate in another festival? I think so. As long as I had the inventory mostly built up and wouldn't have to kill myself to do it again. :P As soon as I get some of it posted on Etsy, I'll let you know and you can check them out. Pass on the word! And as always, any feedback you have would always be welcome.