What’s on my Creative Mind II


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There’s a coffee cupped in my hands right now.
I am pensively sitting in a line of sunshine.

So here we are.
It’s 2013.
Who would have thought?
A changing world.
Dynamic.
Fast paced.
Constant activity and motion.
It seems small in its hugeness.
This globe that spins
This human, physical life that spins and eventually slows down to a stop.

Yes.
It’s my melancholic mood time.
Bear with me.
The time I take to wonder.
Why?
How?
When?
What if?
It’s the time I ponder on my kids thrown into a rat race.
Work harder!
Play faster!
Get the goal!
It’s a time I wonder if I am the creator not of beautiful things but of the very rats in the race of life.
Now before we all start crying…
Let me say that in it all,
in all of this striving.
Beauty exists.

It’s up to me to glimpse it.
To catch it as it slides through my day.
To share it.
“Mom! Look at the amazing red sky!”
“Yes, put your clothes on you are going to be late.”
(That was a moment unshared.)

Our creativity rests in the ability to see life.
The ability to sit on the step and take in the red sky.
The ability to settle in the sun and make the phone call that spreads hope.
The ability to support the teacher who is going through the divorce and love her.
The ability to know that we are vulnerable.
ALL of us.
Fragile, creative, vulnerable people.
People who have strength and ability, talent and diversity.

To know that we are not enemies.
To allow ourselves to see the story riding deep in each one of us.
The story that makes us cringe.
Yet there is always the counteract story.
The one that causes us to delight.

Our creativity is as our humanness.
In need of the hand of God.

So put down the swords and striving.
Forgive a woman her moments of weakness.
A man his moments of torment.
Slow down.
Take a deep breath.
Use your moment to do one thing differently today.

This is me, I am Tania Ahlfeldt – taking time to feel a little wistful, yet in it there is expectation and desire.

This piece was recorded live on Kingfisher FM. kingfisherfm
It was written in the warmth and comfort of my office away from home – Brioche Café, Main Rd Walmer, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. (Thanks Ilsa, your space brings warmth to my soul.)

Photo: D Sharon Pruitt

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What’s on my Creative Mind?


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I live in a city where many of the creatives (and by that I mean people who choose to make creativity their career) leave.
Of course, our little place in the sun is choc-a-block full of creative minds but…
We have few places where creativity spills out,
grabs you,
drags you in.
When I walk on Donkin Hill I feel it.
Art that accosts me and makes me look.
It’s bold.
It thrills.
It makes me think.
It brings me back.
Artistic ingenuity that grounds the area.

Creative environments strike cords within us.

Let me take you on a trip
Imagine walking into a beige building.
You are walking on brown tiles.
The cupboards are melamine beige
The chairs are brown.
The tables are medium brown.
There’s strip lighting.
Brown files line the walls.
The space is functional.
Does it strike a cord?

Will the building drag you back to spend more time there?
Does the space feel loved?
That someone cared for it enough to make it beautiful.

Now you walk into the second building.
Your feet clatter on polished wooden floors.
Slatted white blinds let in the sunlight.
Bulbous, modern glass light fittings diffuse the light.
Large easy chairs with plump cushions beckon.
The tiles around the ancient fireplace make you look again.
The mosaic encourages you to stare.
The walls are painted in shades of duck egg blue.
Thick rugs are scattered about.
Chances are that someone cared.
Someone poured them self into the space.
It was touched by a creativity hospitable heart.

You see, we get used to the bland.
We expect it somehow.
We wave goodbye to the next person leaving to build a more creative life in another city, wipe the tear from our eye and move on.

I encourage you to spend more time in environments where creative minds have played.
Spend a morning on Richmond Hill.
Walk into spaces and compliment the people who created them.
Support the creatives in our city.
Don’t be threatened.
Become fertiliser to the creativity that grows here.
It’s in a circle of support that creativity flourishes.
It’s in a word that says to someone, “I love what you are doing here.”

We settle for the insipid, the double beige, the drab, the mass produced.
We are too used to feeling safe, tucked up in brown lives.

This is me, I am Tania Ahlfeldt and I would like to apologise to brown – it’s getting a tough deal from me here.
I acknowledge its beauty when I bite into the lusciousness of a chocolate bar.
When I lean against the sturdy brown trunk of a tree.
It’s also the colour of toast, all crunchy and warm…
But c’mon, you know what I mean…

The above piece was recorded live on Kingfisher FM’s Creative Moment.
When I wrote it I was deliriously happy, surrounded by creativity and the lush smells of breads, fresh coffee, pastries…
This is the joyful hospitality of my office away from home – Brioche Café situated on Main Rd Walmer in our beautiful city on the tip of Africa.
Port Elizabeth.

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The Space You’re In


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It’s a fact.
Every space we walk into envelopes us.
Remember the Sub A classroom and the smell of chalk?
A hospital ward.
The drab office with files a little dusty.
Your grannies home.
Early morning in the garden.
The spaces we enter into give us a feeling.
Good, sad, uplifting, depressing, creative…

As humans we create the spaces around us.
Our homes.
Our offices.
Our classrooms.
Some have the financial clout to get others in to create their spaces.
Some not.
The spaces we create have a voice.
They tell someones story.

I remember visiting a Xhosa village and watching as a woman dipped her hand into a mixture of cow dung and water.
This she reverently smeared onto her floor.
It sounds distasteful.
In reality it was beautiful.
With her fingers she made patterns on the floor.
When it dried it was fresh and welcoming.
In actual fact the floor was an artistic welcome mat for all who entered.

Right now I am sitting in a ray of sunshine
Fresh, warm ciabatta toast with butter and marmalade has been placed before me.
A foam topped coffee is in my hand.
Swing music plays
The fresh morning enters through the open door.
This space is a mix of modern and nostalgic.
A chandelier hangs through barn-like wooden beams.
I come here to work.
I sit in this place and feel that my creativity is heightened because of the context of where I am.

Look at the space around you now.
What is it saying to you?
Open a window.
Put on some music.
Brew that coffee.
Clean up the dusty files.
Rearrange furniture
Small changes can have a big effect.

A woman used dung to make her home more welcoming!
Dung…
That is the ultimate in ingenuity.
The quality of being clever, original and inventive.
We are all of those things as humans.
Don’t shy away from the originality that is you.
We all have the ability to think creatively and independently .
So take a moment.
Notice the space around you
Set out to find a place that inspires you.
Set out to make your space a better place to be

This is me, I am Tania Ahlfeldt and my creative space of the moment is here at Ilsa Coles Brioche on Main Road Walmer, Port Elizabeth, South Africa – my office away from home.
Go on, dig in and find your space.

And go and like my Facebook page called Love Your Art Teacher Today, lets encourage the working creatives in our midst…

I Should, I Should, I Should


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I am driving alone and “the shoulds” seep into my self talk.

Mmmmmm…
I should exercise more.
I should eat healthier.
I should get more insurance.
I should spend more time with God.
I should love more.
I should sort out the garage.
I should do that proposal.
I should phone my Uncle.
I should invite so and so for supper.
I should paint the wall.
I should do a course.
I should take the dog for a walk.
I should have the toaster fixed.
I should look for a different job.
I should be a better parent, son, daughter, wife, husband.

I should…
I should…
I should…
You know them, those shoulds.

The shoulds lie there just under the skin.
They roll around pricking us.
They attempt to motivate us to move in their many, multitasking directions.
The shoulds tell us that we never do enough.
We could be better.
We must push harder.
They don’t switch off.
Ever.

And yet, here I am telling you that you should be more creative.
Exhausting!
So what does that even mean?
Being more creative?
Should you all run out and buy canvases?
Should you immediately start crafting, carving, sculpting, painting, printing?

Today, I take the should out of your creative life.
I encourage you to quietly and calmly recognise that creativity is just a part of your being.
It is NOT something you HAVE to DO.
Rather, it is that which you are.

You are created.
You cannot help that.
So allow your creativity to simply dawn on you.
Let it dawn on you as you garden.
Let it occur to you as you love.
Let it flow over you as you stare at beauty.
Let it rise as you toss something in the pot for supper.
Let it surface as you return home to your family after work.
Allow it to affect you as you worship.
As you interact.
As you speak.
As you live.

Be open to it.
Recognise it.
Revel in it and don’t lift a finger!

This is me, Tania Ahlfeldt and today I celebrate that YOU are a creative human being.

PS: let it be known that if you want to paint, sculpt, carve, print, write – go for it!

The Story of a Tongue


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There is a man.
He is a renowned chef.
He started a restaurant in Chigago called Alinea.
As restaurants go, Alinea is placed around 6th in the world.
And the man?
His name is Grant Achatz.

Now Grant’s restaurant is intensely specific.
An integral part of his offering is his tasting menu.
This is where you can taste delicious, tiny morsels of food.
To put things into perspective for you, his tasting menu costs
in the region of $219 – $265!

The man prepares some serious food.
People go there to indulge in new sensations,
to taste new tastes, new blends, new combinations.

Grant got cancer.

Can you guess where?
Of the tongue.

The diagnosis?
Remove it.

It like a perfume maker being told to remove his nose.
It’s the deaf composer.
The runner without legs.

Grant refused.
After visiting doctor after doctor, he finally found one that preformed a very specific
combination of chemo and radiation.

He reports that it was as if he had harsh, sever sunburn in his mouth,
down his throat and on the outside too.
To his dismay – he lost all his sense of taste.

What do you do in a situation like this?
How do you cope when you hit a wall that is black and hard?

Well Grant insists that this was the time that he drew on his true creativity.
He carried on going into work at his restaurant, but worked 10 hour days instead of 14
and he continued to design tasting menus.
With no taste!

This time he used his imagination to conceive the ideas instead of his tongue.

Grant got a fellow chef that he trusted to do the tasting and actually broke new ground
in the land of taste.
As his imagination kicked into high gear Achatz found inspiration in his temporary disability, deciding that it would turn him into a better chef.

Grant says the whole experience has transformed his cooking.
Its allowed him radical leaps.

Grant Achatz is now cancer free
He has his tongue.
His sense of taste has returned.
He is a better chef than ever before.

And Grant Achtaz knows that there are no guarantees.
He knows that his illness ignited his imagination.

This is me Tania Ahlfeldt and I cannot help wondering if Beethovens deafness ensured that he wrote brilliant music, or if losing your tongue means finding it?
And of course, I cannot help but wonder what your lack and your creativity can do for you today.

Above photo: Courtesy of link below, click to find out more.
www.tumblr.com/tagged/achatz

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Above photo: Courtesy of link below, click to find out more.
https://content.alinearestaurant.com/html/index.html

The Glorious Walk


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Last night my boys and I were settled, drinking tea and
reading a couple of pages from the book ‘Boy’, Roald Dahl’s story of his childhood.
Roald Dahl brought so much sparkle and intrigue into my childhood.
Of course “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” stands out, as does
“Danny Champion of the World” and the unique strangeness of his book,
“James and the Giant Peach”.
I have in turn, managed to pass the love of his writing on to my sons.
One of the stories that intrigued me from the book ‘Boy’ is a story about his father Harold.
This Norwegian and his brother Oscar ran away from their tiny village close to Oslo
to make their fortunes.
Bravely, the two decided to go to different countries as they wanted to make their fortunes separately and not rely on each other (if it had been me I’d have hung onto my brother).
One went to France, the other to Wales.

Through shear hard work and determination both men made masses of money
and developed a love for the beautiful, even though they lived far apart.
Roahl Dahl’s father had an interesting quirk,
he would take his wife on what he called the “Glorious Walks”.
The “Glorious Walks” would happen primarily during her
last three months of pregnancy (they had 4 children).
Harold Dahl’s endeavour was to find areas of particularly beauty for his wife to enjoy and admire.
His thoughts were that somehow the child in her womb would experience
the wonder through her, thereby growing up with an eye for beauty.
What a sweet, romantic and creative gesture.
This busy, shipbroker magnet also made time to carve.
He carved frames, objects and their homes magnificent mantelpiece which still stands today.
He didn’t wait for beauty to come to him, he went out to seek it,
to create it – plus he ensured that his family were included in the adventure.

My son has been drawing in his spare time.
They are the weird and wonderful drawings of a 12 year old.
He has been getting into a genre of focussing on drawing some pretty weird creatures.
His drawings are good.
The subject matter, a little dark.
Now understand me, there is nothing wrong with drawing weird creatures,
however I realised that he was not tuning into that which pleases the senses and the mind.

So I gave him the beauty challenge.
It’s easy to draw a scary face, we all can do it,
the challenge is to produce a rendering that makes a heart leap with joy.
Yesterday he came home and proudly showed me a design he’d done in his free time at school.
Now I know pleasing design when I see it and this boy had tuned in.
He’d dug a little deeper.
And as for my heart?
Yes, it felt great pleasure.
Will he still draw weird creatures?
Of course!
More importantly was that I saw HIS pleasure.
I saw his opening up.

So my challenge to you today is to dig deep and tune into beauty.
It is easy to see what’s wrong with the world around you.
Maybe you need to take a “Glorious Walk”.
Maybe you need to chat to your children about the sheer joy one finds in beauty.
Turn your head.
Go out and get Roald Dahl’s book ‘Boy’ from the library.
Read it to your family.
Read it for yourself.
And…
Know that you are creative, it is there waiting for you.

This is me, Tania Ahlfeldt and I am encouraging you to walk gloriously .

(Below is a picture of the Gypsy Caravan he bought for his children to have fun in,
he also wrote his book “Danny Champion of the World” in it.)

www.roalddahl.com/

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Do I HAVE to be Vulnerable?


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My darling husband Alan loves to share new insights with me.
A while back Al settled me down on the couch to watch a TED video by an American researcher called Brené Brown.
Her talk was on the subject of vulnerability and it hit into the very heart of me.
Since then I have watched her talk a number of times, Al and I discuss it frequently and I have shared it with those I love.
When we think of the word vulnerability, we immediately feel a little vulnerable and vulnerable, let’s face facts, is NOT the place where we want to be.

Instead, we want the opposite.
We seek to be assured.
We seek power.
We want to be strong and to dispel all doubt.
We want to be certain to get…

Vulnerability means wobbly ground does it not?
Even quicksand!
We want solid under our feet.
We want to sit down at that piano and play the piece through perfectly.
We want the job praised .
We want the “Well done”.
We want to KNOW we are doing it right.

But…
Vulnerability is a very necessary part of being human.
To be vulnerable is movement into the new.
It’s when we dare greatly.
And it’s in daring greatly that we are able to discover.
It’s when we take the chance.
It’s that place of humanness we find ourselves in as we indulge in a creative action.

To be creative is to be vulnerable.
I am sorry, but that’s real.
Creativity (and you know my thinking on this) is not an option for us.
We have it, whether we use it or not.
Maybe the time is ripe to put ourselves out there.
To acknowledge our vulnerability in the face of trying to prove how strong we are.
We all strive to armour ourselves.
And of course we need it, we cannot walk through life unprotected.
But we need to know when to open up.
For it is in the opening up, that true strength lies.

So go out there and say “I need help with this!”, say “I love you”, tell them “I am trying something new here, bear with me.”
Encourage those around you as they try and fail.
Celebrate with them as they attempt and succeed.

This is me Tania Ahlfeldt encouraging you to acknowledge the creativity, vulnerability and humanness in yourself and others.

Join Al and I plus millions of people who have been inspired by Brené Brown.
http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

The beautiful creativity poster by Amanda Cherie can be bought at http://www.etsy.com http://www.etsy.com/shop/hellocherie