Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Pace of Feet and Breath

Cast your eye over any charity shop bookshelf and there will be an inevitable stack of self-help titles. Paperbacks full of hyperbole and proclaimed potential.  Some wrinkled with age and others retaining never-been-touched pages, they are indicative of the ongoing obsession with happiness.

I’m uneasy with the word 'happy', particularly when used to describe aspiration: "Oh if only I did this or that, or stopped that and this, then, just then, I would definitely be happy." It becomes an unattainable benchmark. Happiness is a wonderful, sometimes deliriously lovely state. But it is transitory. We are happy and we are unhappy. Both are natural. We experience peaks and troughs, with neutral bits in between. One cannot be in a constant state of uplifted jubilation. Plus, we wouldn't be able to appreciate it if it were the norm.

For me, that’s where the term 'content' comes in. To be contented feels like a more realistic aim. It acknowledges both rough and smooth. It suggests a certain stability or satisfaction. It admits that bits of life can be crap and really challenging, but that much of it has been unbelievably fortunate. I am so grateful for the family I landed in and friends I’ve found. 'Counting your blessings' is another one of those concepts that sounds more self-help-yoga-and-low-fat-yoghurt than it actually is. But sometimes in the whirl and twist of each day, it’s easy to lose sight of how privileged certain aspects really are.

Contentedness is also the feeling that washes over me when I’m out walking by myself. The pace of feet and breath, the space around me, the sounds of trees creaking and the far-off hum of an occasional car. Whether the route takes in lakes or long roads, there’s a kind of sustained absorption in it – a rhythm that takes me not just over the landscape but right through it; “really with it, and in it” as Cathy cries in Wuthering Heights. Sometimes my head is busy, the outdoors air not only smarting my cheeks but sparking ideas too. One runs into another and solutions emerge, plots unfold, projects spring up out of the dark. At other times the thoughts rise and fall again without properly registering. They are as light as dried leaves, lifted this way and that by the breeze. Often it is just enough to stand watching dusk beckon light away, the odd bird beating past.

It’s a grounding sensation. During my first month at Oxford, the orange and copper lined paths of Christchurch Meadows weren’t an escape, but a return – a half hour snatch of something substantial, almost serene. Both mind-clearing and mind-replenishing, an echo of the countryside in the middle of an ever-busy city. 

I think that beautiful Lucy Feng- in my photos above - has a quality of serenity about her that proved fitting to illustrate these observations. The story behind my styling and photography here was to contradict the rule that 'blue and green should never be seen' by placing the two in close proximity. An array of velvets, satin and sixties shoes were duly lugged on and off a train to reach her house. This took place on the same summery day as the fantastical series of photos she took of me. 
She is currently doing a fashion foundation course at Central St Martins - you can see her blog (jam-packed with incredible photography and artwork) here

Also, Image Magazine Ireland  did a lovely feature on my blog the other day. Many thanks to Jeanne de Sutun for that. 


Sacramento Amate said...

Pure art.

Lucy Feng said...

It really is a beautiful article Roz. It's an honour to have our shoot alongside it :)

Melanie said...

Lucy illustrates your writing beautifully and I really enjoyed her photos of you in her earlier piece as well. I love a gown in front of a power tower.
Stillness, so difficult to achieve sometimes but so nourishing.

Caramel Latte Kiss said...

Beautiful post. I think of contentment as being at peace. Everything is ok, and you're relaxed, peaceful and content.

Nicky mywishstyle said...

you are really pretty!

Ivana Split said...

Lucy is really a wonderful model...and there is in her a certain serenity that goes well with the text.

I think I once read an article that stated that the more self-help books get published, more people feel depressed. There is really something to be said about obssession with happiness that we have seem to fallen victims to...every commercial is a smiling face, more or less.

That reminds me of a good advice that I've found in one really old book: don't try to make your child happy at every cost, children need to feel sadness sometimes and have some privacy to do so. If you buy them a toy everytime they cry or switch their attention some other way, you may be robbing them of some valuable inner thought or experience.

Anupriya DG said...

Wow! Lucy's face & figure do have something spectacular about them! And the jewel hues of the greens & blues are just making her sparkle! <3
Checked out her blog's truly inspirational in its wonderfully creative content!

And Roz, I think your desire to be "content" rather than always "happy" has surely found agreement in my thoughts as well. Happiness, as they say, is a choice. If we learn to be content, our "unhappiness" will surely take a backseat. :)

Izzy DM said...

Oy vey! I didn't know there was such a rule-- no green and blue together that is. I do avoid green and red-- too christmasy-- but otherwise I don't do rules. I'll never forget when a friend of mine came up to me and asked me if I was wearing a "boho" dress.

"Um.. it's a skirt I made into a dress actually."

"Well, Cosmo said boho was over," she informed me. Not nastily but as if she were trying to be helpful. I decided rules were ridiculous from that day forth.

Nice thought about finding a golden mean between highs and lows. I'm never so miserable as when I try to make myself be happy. You're right: happiness is always an unexpected gift.

I love seeing your photography; you made your lovely friend look lovely! Last but not least, adorable spaniel! I've got one, too, but mine's a tiny American variety. One of the (two) loves of my life :).


Abigail said...

wow, that was beautiful writing and photos, i just wanted to say I really enjoyed it :)

Vix said...

You never fail to knock me for six, both with your stunning images and wisdom beyond your years.
Contentment, that's exactly what we should strive for. No bucket lists or unattainable goals, just the ability to live in the moment and just to enjoy.
Lucy illustrates your words beautifully and thanks for the mention in your last post, maybe this year we'll finally meet. xxxx


I agree, and think Lucy displays this exceptionally. The photos are amazing as is your writing as always. Wising you the best this weekend. :) /Madison

Closet Fashionista said...

Yep, I have the boots in black and brown! I had been hunting for good walking to work boots for forever and when I saw those I took the plunge and bought both colors, ha ha.

Most times I do find myself content...not super happy but not sad either. I often find that when I'm really happy I don't realize it until after, ha ha.

And loving all these shots, obviously. The little dogs are so cute!

Jean at said...

I'm always nourished when I visit your blog, visually and emotionally/spiritually. Lovely pictures and thoughtful writing. I dreamt the other night that I was going to see you at my blogger meet-up recently! Perhaps someday; I would love that.

Take good care, Roz!! XXOO

Frenie Agbayani said...

That mini blue club dress is stunning. I wish i had it.

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