Night Trees, Sea Breeze

‘We hold you’, say the trees.

art trees cicada wing grief

Night Trees, Sea Breeze
Sally Swain © art

I return to a beachside place of the heart. It’s been a while. The cabins that I used to stay in, to the north of the village, are demolished, erased. The whole camping ground is gone. It’s as if it never existed. I weep salty tears by the salty sea.

I walk and weep; walk and weep.

Other, more current griefs surface and spill. The long, slow, gritty grief of caring for elderly folk, in both my personal and professional life, unexpectedly surges forth. The bittersaltysweet release of tears is required regularly, it seems.

rockpool texture art photo

sea creatures create squiggles

I am able

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with a little bit of bloomin’ art

It’s Mental Health Month here in Oz.

Wednesday was Mental Health Day.

Just as well, says Sally, as I was feeling super-stressed and I had the opportunity to attend Qi Gong class while watching the rain lollop down the window pane. That helped.

Art helps.

Writing helps.

Creative expression helps to alleviate stress big-time.

And small-time. That is, even if you have only a small rainy window pane to express your pain, or simply play with colour, it helps.

collaborative art children

A collaborative three-way art-play from last school holidays

You might remember Aunty Art Café. It’s one of the occasions I’ve shared with you school holiday art-making experiences with my niece. Fun.

Aunty Art Cafe

watercolour art co-creation

Upside Down Waterscape

This school holiday, my niece, sister and I had one hour. Just a little bit of bloomin’ art-making time. (please excuse the My Fair Lady song reference. Do you know ‘With a Little Bit of Bloomin’ Luck’ from another era?)

One hour. What shall we do?

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How to be solid and airy

at the same time.

It’s a good elemental combo, don’t you think? Groundedness and lightness; earth and sky?

earth angel watercolour art therapy

Grounded yet expansive
Sally Swain © art

Dramatherapist Joanna Jaaniste and art therapist Suzanne Perry offer an experiential presentation to our SaAT (Sydney area Arts Therapists) professional peer group.

Ooo – I do love a bit of experiential work and play. Getting wholistically involved in interactive, participatory learning really suits me. As opposed to say, having bucketloads of facts hurled at me while I sit stiffly, bottom-jammed and angular, attempting to ingest it all.

I prefer to be

a living part of the feedback loop,

with an opportunity

to breathe both in AND out.

I prefer to be actively making meaning;

not treated as a passive receptacle of knowledge.

Talking of learning styles and preferences, I’m aware that some art therapists are hesitant to step into body movement or anything resembling the D (drama) word; while some dramatherapists are scared of the A (art) word; busily believing they can’t draw. I get it.

If I were placed

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Between a Rock and a Soft Place

The Opposite of Anxiety

I’m breaking my own rules. Best kind to break.

Who wants to make a spinifex mandala in the desert sand within view of Uluru, Kata Tjuta, a sunrise and a moonset?

Instead of waiting an entire whole year to share another ‘Late Middle-Aged to Early-Old Crazy Art Lady’ adventure, here’s a tale for you a mere two weeks since the last episode.

It’s because I can’t resist shouting from the rooftops about Uluru and Kata Tjuta. I simply must extol the beauty, the majesty, the mystery.

Uluru shape form

The Rock close up has infinite shapes, folds, rifts, caves, dips, portals, layers….each of which tells a story.

I shall attempt to do my rooftop shouting quietly, however, with the minimal word-count induced by awe. 

{By the way, if you wish to peruse a previous Crazy Art Lady story, click here: ‘Late Middle-Aged to Early-Old Crazy Art Lady Goes to the Beach’}

desert colours Uluru

Once you’ve seen the desert colours, you can’t un-see them. They are in your fibres.

Let me just say, my first experience of spending time with Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (formerly known as the Olgas) was transformative. I felt that my Field of Vision was expanded.

And that

once you’ve seen this place,

you can’t un-see it.

Generally, I love lushness. Luminous green trees, ferns and waterfalls are my idea of gorgeousness. So I resisted the Red Centre, but now I am a convert.

Kata Tjuta (many heads) brims with bulbous body-like sacred formations. Powerful. Oh dammit. My words do not do it justice.

The rock has rocked me.

Both rocks have rocked me.

Uluru beauty

Exquisite Uluru ahhh

And hey. I happened to be there on the morning of the blood-moon-plus-long-lunar-eclipse, with a dash of rare planetary alignment on the side. How special is that?

Uluru sunrise glow beauty nature

It truly does glow. No human hand has performed colour mishmashing here.

The sun rose

wonder awe rock

Uluru Sunrise Slice

while the just-post-eclipse moon set over Kata Tjuta.

nature beauty awe wonder

Just. Post. Eclipse. Blood. Full. Moon. Becoming. Crescent. Setting. Over. Kata. Tjuta.

Spurred by beauty beyond words, I suddenly spontaneously gathered loose strands of amazing, hardy spinifex (Tjanpi) and made a mandala in the red orange glowing desert sand.

In those moments, I was not anxious, fearful or stuck in my head trying to solve nitty-gritty problems. Believe me, I know the Art of Worrying inside out. As a friend said, in these moments, my softness of being, my presence and expansiveness was the Opposite of Anxiety.

creative ageing Swain

Late Middle-Aged to Early-Old Crazy Art Lady Goes to the Desert

The funny sun-dial type sand and spinifex mandala?

Twas an offering of gratitude to the elements and to all who allowed me to be there. 

I wish to close by expressing gratitude and deep respect to the Anangu traditional owners of this country – to Elders past, present and future.

with love, art and soul from Sally

Which Way Round?

Make art, even if it’s upside down

This way?

Which Way Round?
One

I am loving felt pens plus water. I’m not sure why it’s taken me fifty-something years to discover the joys of such simple ingredients, but it has.

Or this way?

art felt pen round

Which Way Round?
Two

Felt marker pens, particularly at school, were something you didn’t want to get water on. You drew or wrote with them because of their precision. You admired their clean lines. You were in control. You didn’t want to lose all that nice neatness to a soggy mush-ball.

Water brings with it an unknowing.

It brings an unpredictability and a, sometimes scary, lack of control. What joy!

This way?

Sally Swain art therapy aged

Which Way Round?
Three

Felt-pen-plus-water art-making is just the ticket for debriefing from an art therapy session in residential aged care. After

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For Humble Magic, Just Add Water

A tale of art therapy in residential aged care

Swain felt marker art

Just Add Water 1
A Humble Magic
felt marker on paper towel
Sally Swain © original art

I am delighted.

I’ve just run an art therapy group in a psychogeriatric unit.

I’ve had an unusual level of support, with two whole entire art therapist helpers.

It feels like a dance. We three weave in and out of being with different aged care residents at different times, each with our own energy, skill and strength. It is an elegant Jane Austen era dance; maybe a minuet or a quadrille.

One art therapist sits

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Good Grief Cafe

Sally Swain original art painting

Here Am I
Swimming in a Teacup
Sally Swain © original art
purchased by a lovely member of Sydney Threshold Choir

Let me tell you about the Good Grief Café.

I rarely report on workshops or playshops in this here blog.

But I wonder –

Might you find it useful to read about bringing Art to your experience of Grief?

Good Grief Café is a one day workshop hosted by Sydney Threshold Choir.

(Link to this Brave, Big-Hearted Bunch of Women Here).

I was thrilled to co-facilitate along with the amazing Trish Watts and Beate Steller.

(Look for a bunch of groovy website links down the bottom of this page)

I was responsible for the Art thread of the day, weaving it in with other offerings.

Let’s take a glimpse at the Art thread:

Safe Space for the Holding of Grief

I led

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Vividly lighting up the bodymind

How very art therapy

They are still setting up for opening night of Vivid when I’m on my way to Sydney Writers’ Festival. One sculpture captivates me.

I see drawn outlines of the human body, with words written inside.

Write, I mean, right, up my alley.

Vivid Harbour Bridge

a Vivid artwork pre-lighting
check out the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background

On closer inspection,

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