I've been known, during my long and productive career as an artist, to take time out. To lie fallow as it were. Like a field that's left uncultivated for a season, a period of inactivity or 'incubation', as I prefer to call it, seems, without fail, to stimulate a flourish of creative activity. It may may look as if I'm sitting around with, as British journalist and author Caitlin Moran writes in her hilarious memoir How to be a Woman, 'galaxies of nothingness in my eyes' but rest assured, it's all going on inside! I've been able to justify a brief stint of day dreaming and idleness knowing my ideas will soon percolate to the surface and I'll be back, busy as a beaver on my next project.
But now, having entered 'the winter of life', my sixties, the concept of lying fallow has taken on a whole new meaning. I'm beginning to contemplate the prospect of taking time out just for the sake of it or even, heaven forbid, on a permanent basis; without feeling guilty or needing to rationalise my slothful behaviour. The drive to achieve and succeed is not as strong as it once was and I must admit it comes as a blessed relief. Haven't I done enough already? Surely, I've paid my dues. I remember gruelling days in the bush - enduring fire, floods and drought; me and my husband clearing the land with our bare hands; building a house from bush poles and mud; fencing, milking goats, spinning wool, grinding wheat and growing all our own fruit and vegetables. I raised a daughter, with all that entails - a challenge without running hot water or electricity. I've worked in all manner of menial jobs in order to make ends meet and fought tooth and nail to establish a career as a professional artist and then, no mean feat, to survive. More recently, I've written and published my memoir, Hippy Days, Arabian Nights. I'm actually pretty knackered!
'It was my job to collect the wattles. Setting out soon after breakfast, I’d tramp through the bespangled, dew-drenched bracken and native grasses in search of a stand of slender saplings––a truffle-like perfume of leaf mould issuing from the damp earth, the last wisps of grey mist diffusing into the ether; all around me, the ear-piercing, incessant chiming of bellbirds and the cackling of kookaburras cracking themselves up. With the wan wintery light filtering through the blue-green canopy of gum leaves above, I’d spend my day felling wattles with the bushman’s saw and lopping off the extraneous branches with a hatchet. At smoko, I’d unwrap the apple and cinnamon pikelets made on the campfire the night before and pour myself a cuppa from the thermos. Then sat on a lichen-speckled log I’d sip my tea and listen to the faint tap-tap of John’s mallet as he chiselled out a mortice in the distance. One day, alone in the gently rustling bush, it dawned on me: I was actually living in McCubbin’s Pioneer triptych, the painting that had captured my young and impressionable heart as an art student in Melbourne and smiling quietly to myself, I drained my mug, polished off the last of the rubbery pancakes and got back to work.' - Excerpt from Hippy Days, Arabian Nights.
Is being 'put out to pasture' such a bad thing? At this point, I'm not so sure. And when it's time to finally retire I'm confident I'll learn, like singer/songwriter Judy Collins put it, 'to love the fallow way'.
I'll learn to love the fallow way
When all my colors fade to white
And flying birds fold back their wings
Upon my anxious wondering's
The sun has slanted all her rays
Across the vast and harvest plains
My memories mingle in the dawn
I dream a joyful vagabonds
- Judy Collins, The Fallow Way
Spanning five decades and as many continents, Australian artist Katherine Boland's memoir, Hippy Days, Arabian Nights is a funny, moving and compelling story of a woman whose extraordinary life is without could-or-should-haves. It is available here in paperback and Kindle.
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Find out more about Hippy Days, Arabian Nights at http://www.katherineboland-author.com