Reflections on the year, and sailing into 2016

posted in: Inspired by nature | 14

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The time between Christmas and New Year is a strange limbo-land, a sort of other-time that feels out of step with the rest of the year. This year, I’ve entered the limbo-land earlier than usual, thanks to diminished responsibilities, and a sense of free-fall after a weighty decision that I’ve finally made. Up until now, my ‘career’ (whatever that is) had a scientific basis and a secure, public service reality. Charted with Cartesian coordinates and facts, and tempered with political realities and the dullness of bureaucracy. After years of unsettled dissatisfaction, I’m leaving this seemingly solid shore, and casting myself adrift in a little boat, onto an ocean of writing and art, of combining science with creativity, and all the time still celebrating and sharing the extraordinary natural world. Some of you will know that in 2015 I took 12 months unpaid leave from my permanent Queensland Government job to pursue other things. What I’m trying to say here, is that I’m not going back.

So is it any wonder I feel that I am floating in a weird other-land right now, when I have just untethered myself from that steady public service, science-based trajectory, that one I’ve been on for all of my working life?

I was raised by hard-working migrant parents who wanted to give me the education they never had. Both provided me with every support and encouragement to get to University and complete a degree, and then a postgraduate degree. But my father eschewed anything arty: “Micky-mouse” he called it. Good writing was valued as useful, but he could see no way that anyone could make a living from ‘art’. At a turning point in Year 10 of high school I gave up art and literature, and chose a course of maths and science. Nature was always my passion, so it was fine, no, it was more than fine – it was exciting, interesting and brilliant – to explore nature through zoology, botany and ecology. But now, 30 years later, I’m also reconnecting with my arty side.

It’s taken some courage over the last year to put my feelers out, to play around with combining science, creative writing and art. This blog has been an important part of the journey, and every one of you who have signed up, liked posts, tweeted or shared links, left comments, or told me in person how much you enjoy my stories and my pictures – all of you have given me that little bit more self-confidence and daring to keep going. Thank you so much for your interest and support 🙂 .

Then, in September of this year I hung out with ‘real’ artists – probably for the first time ever – while they were exploring and creating art at the Bimblebox Art –Science – Nature camp in central Queensland. I had often been in the field with other scientists, and was used to a scientific way of interacting with nature – observing, identifying, asking questions, measuring and analysing. During the Bimblebox camp I noticed that these artists were doing many of the same things, but also other things that I’d always done myself. Sure, there was observation and thoughtfulness. But there was also a fascination with forms, colours, the light, and with beauty in and of itself, and with different kinds of meaning. And then the need to express this creatively, with everyone working in their own style and at their own pace. After all these years, this experience finally convinced me of something that I’d always dismissed – that I was also an artist. Thank you to the organisers of the camp, and to those that attended, for allowing me to make this personally profound discovery.

So what comes next? Well, not exactly knowing is part of the fun. You see, I can only see part of the horizon just now. It is still about nature and conserving the environment – it always has been. But this year has strengthened my conviction that we need much more than facts to turn people on to nature, and to help change the human behaviour that’s destroying the natural world. You see, few people (apart from scientists) are excited by facts alone, or make decisions based on facts. Most people need something to ‘warm up’ the facts: stories, pictures, emotions, action, a human or personal dimension. And perhaps environmentalists spend a bit too much time telling stories of gloom and doom, and trying to inform people, when we should be telling the world how fabulous nature is, and how much fun it is to birdwatch, herp, rockpool, snorkel, spotlight (without guns!), botanise… or just spend time exploring nature, basking in the sun, having a cup of tea while taking in a splendid view, or just simply being in it. This is the space I’d like to explore further.

So next year I’m hoping to create more stories and pictures for this blog, perhaps another colouring book or two, maybe some other publications. I’m planning some ‘Creative nature’ workshops in wild places where I’ll be sharing ecological stories with people, and showing them ways of interacting creatively with nature. But as I sail on, who knows what else might be in store? This year has reminded me that seeing the straight steady road running ahead for miles (years) can be stultifying. In comparison, sailing beyond where I can see now, onto the next (now hidden) vista is a bit frightening, but so much more exhilarating. I may sometimes be daunted, and I will certainly be challenged. But I am unlikely to be bored, and that is a very good thing.

Thank you once again, dear reader, for taking the time to reach the end this rather long and fairly self-indulgent blog. I hope you get a chance to get out in nature this festive season. May your Christmas weirdness be delightful, and your New Year full of wonderful things.

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14 Responses

  1. Chelsee

    I love reading your posts. It seems we have much in common, except I left it behind to have children. Now nature and children are my focus and mixing the two brings me great joy. Look forward to many more of your posts in the NY.

    • Paula Peeters

      Hey Chelsee thanks for the lovely comment. It sounds to me that your kids are very fortunate! It’s great that you’re introducing them to nature, and even better, because you get so much joy from it, they’re bound to cherish those times too. Cheers, Paula

  2. Rhonda Butcher

    Congratulations on taking that final leap Paula, I knew you would – this path suits you so much and its great to see you so happy! I foresee continued success and I know you will create, or find, many new opportunities for combining nature and art – wishing you the very best for the festive season and a brave new 2016.

    • Paula Peeters

      Dear Rhonnie, thanks so much for the continued support and your faith in what I do. I am still intending to pick your brains on all sorts of things… just waiting for you to have a breather after your busy year. Cheers, Paula

  3. Annie Kelly

    Awesome Paula, you are so right, we need to tell more stories of the magnificence, beauty and complexity that is our Australian natural environment. There is soo much of our wildlife that is unknown, and we need to spread the word. I’m excited for you, and hope you get the support you need to realise your dream fully!

    • Paula Peeters

      Thanks so much Annie, you are a reliable and regular inspiration to me :). Happy Christmas, and happy moving into the new abode (it looks great!).

  4. Margaret Stanley

    Well done Paula! What marvellous courage! Looking forward to seeing more of your works.
    Merry Christmas!

    • Paula Peeters

      Thanks Margaret for your generous praise and encouragement 🙂 . I’m looking forward to seeing more completed colouring-ins from your family!

  5. Belinda

    Hi wonderful news you have decided not to go back. Congratulations and move forward fearlessly. Cheers Belinda

    • Paula Peeters

      Hey Belinda great to hear from you, and thank you for the encouragement (I think you know a bit about ‘fearlessly’!). We must catch up some time so I can hear more about what new adventure you’re currently pursuing. Cheers, Paula

  6. Sue Southwood

    Sounds like a great plan Paula … good on you. With your background and willingness to stretch those creative wings you will go far. Life is but a journey, why spin your wheels? Good luck and happy ‘sailing’. Sue

    • Paula Peeters

      Hi Sue, thanks for those words of encouragement – I really appreciate them. Yes, life is too short for unnecessary wheel-spinning! Cheers, Paula

  7. Jane

    Hi Paula,

    Sorry I am so late commenting. I’ve been offline a great deal. Thank you for sharing so many wonderful posts this year. It’s been a pleasure to follow you. Your artwork, thoughts and observations have been a delight to read. After starting up my blog it took me about 6 months to write my first post. I found it all a bit daunting and I felt quite vulnerable. It’s a great way to test the waters and find out new directions to go though and I’m glad I took the leap too. I agree completely with your words:
    “This year has reminded me that seeing the straight steady road running ahead for miles (years) can be stultifying. In comparison, sailing beyond where I can see now, onto the next (now hidden) vista is a bit frightening, but so much more exhilarating. I may sometimes be daunted, and I will certainly be challenged. But I am unlikely to be bored, and that is a very good thing.”
    I wish you a truly special 2016, filled with many exciting discoveries. Best wishes! 🙂

    • Paula Peeters

      Hi Jane, Good to hear from you – I hope your offline time was of the relaxing and enjoyable kind! Thank you yet again for your words of appreciation and encouragement, and for contributing to this blog from the beginning. I hope you keep walking, photographing and blogging too, as I enjoy your humourous take on things, and wonderful photos. Cheers, Paula