Touchstones: 25 Things I Love

I completed an assignment in Julia Cameron’s book, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, that suggested writing down 25 things that I love. She calls these touchstones, things that are personal to me. Touchstones are to remind me of my identity and connect me with joy.

I began the task more than a week ago, and created the second part of the assignment first…I made mud babies. (You can read that post HERE) I’ve slowly added to my list, and then divided it into categories, grouping the things I love around the five senses. Surprisingly, this task was more difficult than I thought it would be. It required much thought.

Touchstones: 25 Things I Love

As a reminder, a touchstone, long ago, was a literal stone, a dark one such as basalt or jasper, used to test the quality of gold or silver. Later the word referred to a reference point from which to evaluate the quality or excellence of something.

A touchstone can be a physical item, such as a feather or a rock, or a symbol, such as a butterfly representing a dream or a goal, or it can be something created, such as a drawing or a photograph, used to represent something significant.

I like the creative idea of listing things I love, and then creating representatives of those touchstones.

Here is my list, divided by senses:

25+ Things I Love

Taste – watermelon (connects me to gardening and my grandfather Pop), potato soup (something my mom made often and I’ve loved since childhood), blueberries (one of my dad’s favorite fruits for pie), hot herbal or Scottish tea (connects me to the grounding practice of afternoon tea), and Cara Cara oranges (one of my favorite fruits and representative of my improved health).

Touchstones: 25 Things I Love

Touch – flannel sheets (oh so cozy and snuggly in winter), garden dirt (love getting my hands into the warm earth), holding hands (connection with another), soft blanket (coziness seems to be extremely important to me), feathers (they are soft, cleverly made and represent writing), summer evenings as the heat leaves (it’s a magical, mysterious time).

Touchstones: 25 Things I Love

Smell – vanilla (my favorite personal scent), cinnamon (reminds me of the holidays), herbs (whether growing in the garden or dried, the fragrance of herbs represent Life to me), curry (one of my favorite cooking scents), just bathed babies (does anything smell sweeter? The scent of a just bathed baby, snuggled in my arms, evokes a strong maternal response).

Touchstones: 25 Things I Love

Sound – children’s laughter (one of the most joyful sounds on earth), crackling fire (cozy), gurgling water or sound of ocean waves (water sounds soothe and ground me), movie soundtracks (my favorite style of music, they reconnect me with the films), thunderstorms/rain (energizing), instrumental music (played by a variety of musical instruments, it reminds me of the bigness of life and that everyone has a part to play), summer frogs & cicadas (a favorite sound from childhood, it represents freedom).

Touchstones: 25 Things I Love

Sight – movies (one of my major touchstones, for so many reasons), gardens (represent beauty, growth and the earth), moon/stars (I’m drawn to both and the vastness of the universe), firelight/candlelight (cozy, enchanting and mesmerizing), water (I can stare into it all day and reflect), my family (connection, unconditional love, legacy), my passport (represents travel), nature (one of my favorite places to be).

Touchstones: 25 Things I Love

This exercise brought up many memories, as I mentally sorted through things that I love and examined the reasons why. Touchstones have been a crucial part of my life I’ve realized, marking what’s important to me. Turning to any of the touchstones I’ve listed immediately centers me and brings me joy.

Over the next few months, I intend to review this list and stay receptive to ways I can creatively form a symbol for the touchstone. Some items, like my soft blanket that I’m cozily wrapped up in now against the cool of the air conditioning, already exist in material form. Others, however, like garden dirt, can be represented, which is why my marvelous mud babies are now at home in my creative studio.

I’m excited to see where this journey takes me as I stay open to inspiration.

Touchstones: 25 Things I Love

Mud Babies

Working through Julia Cameron’s book It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again has been amazing for me. Although it’s geared toward retirees, and I am not retired, the memoir questions and exercises have stirred many memories from my childhood and youth. Creativity has been important in my life, and even more so after spending time working through fears that limited me in my adult life. The gift, the treasure, that lay beyond my fear was a deep reconnection with my inner child, my playful, artistic side.

Mud Babies

In the chapter I am currently working through, there is a section called Touchstones. Long ago, a touchstone was a literal stone, a dark one such as basalt or jasper, used to test the quality of gold or silver. Later the word referred to a reference point from which to evaluate the quality or excellence of something.

A touchstone can be a physical item, such as a feather or a rock, or a symbol, such as a butterfly, representing a dream or a goal, or it can be something created, such as a drawing or a photograph, used to represent something significant.

Reading about touchstones made me realize that I have used touchstones throughout my life, to mark and symbolize my journey.

One of the exercises in the chapter I’m on is to make a list of 25 things that I love, as a way of finding touchstones. And then to select one item I can access today. The example given was that a cold winter evening becomes cozy when we access the touchstone of fire.

The first item on my list of 25 was gardening, and more specifically, getting my hands into the dirt. And suddenly, a memory rose from my childhood. I knew what touchstone I wanted to create today.

Mud Babies

Mud Babies

I have felt connected to the earth, and growing things, since I was a toddler. I feel it’s a Scottish legacy. As a young girl my parents let me have my own little garden patch, where I could grow carrots or tomatoes or flowers. I’ve continued to garden my whole life.

There is something powerful to me about getting my hands into the dirt, making me shun gardening gloves. The memory that arose was of my young self sitting in the yard, with a bucket of mud and a handful of gravel. I loved making what I called mud babies.

Mud Babies

I created these figures out of a mix of rich dirt and water, using pieces of gravel for simple features on the face. After the babies dried in the air and sun, I played with them until they eventually cracked and fell apart. Then I would make new ones. I don’t remember if this was a solitary form of play for me, or if my sisters and neighborhood kids joined me. I only remember creating mud babies over and over.

It was time to play in the mud again.

In my sunny backyard late this afternoon, I dug up rich soil and placed it in a metal loaf pan, scooped up gravel from the back alley, and turned on the water hose. The trick is to create a thick sticky mud that holds its shape. It all came back to me as I created the right texture and shaped mud babies. I made thicker figures as a child. They took days to dry completely. This evening my mud babies more resembled gingerbread people!

Mud Babies

As I played, forming bodies, arms and legs, I wondered why I created these mud figures as a child. I don’t really know. It was creative fun. It was imaginative. It allowed me to get my hands dirty. As my creations dried, I googled “mud babies”, and struck out there. Googling “mud figures” I discovered African works of art, connected to fertility. Thinking about my early figures, they did resemble fertility art. Perhaps, as a child, I was invoking a creativity blessing, on my very fertile imagination.

Julia Cameron writes, “Touchstones are personal. They remind us of our own identity. They put us in touch with what brings us joy.”

I knew I had reconnected with something that brought me joy, both as a wee girl, and as an adult…getting my hands dirty, creating something. How did I know? I was smiling and laughing as I played in the mud, forming my babies.

Mud Babies

I highly recommend It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again, for any creative soul, and especially for those in midlife and beyond. You can order your copy by clicking the link below.

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Walking in this World

I’m very excited today to have started another 12 week course written by Julia Cameron. Titled Walking in this World, this book continues the journey toward unbridled creativity that was begun in her first book, The Artist’s Way

Read my review of The Artist’s Way

Subtitled The Practical Art of Creativity, this sequel presents the next step in discovering and recovering the creative self. The book includes:

* A new tool for creativity – The Weekly Walk

* Strategies and techniques for breaking through difficult creative ground

* Guidance on developing the ability to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, and use this new awareness to fuel the creative process.

The two foundational tools from The Artist’s Way will be continued. 

The Morning Pages are three pages of free flowing writing, first thing every morning. The purpose of the daily Morning Pages is to clear energy from the mind, by transferring thoughts to paper, creating space for new ideas and inspiration to enter. 

The Artist’s Date is a once a week, hour long solo adventure, used to explore something festive or interesting to the creative consciousness, often referred to as the inner artist or the creative child. The Morning Pages are assigned work. The Artist’s Dates are assigned play! 

Although I have taken a break from doing both, I benefitted greatly from these two exercises as I worked through the last 12 week course. I’m ready to embrace and use both of these tools again. 

Picture taken on one of my walks through Wildcat Park near Shoal Creek. 

I am thrilled to add this third tool to my repertoire. The Weekly Walk is a weekly 20 minute walk, anywhere I choose. The purpose is to focus my thoughts, as I walk, and allow creative breakthroughs and inspirations to come. Walking puts my body in motion, while freeing up my mind. I know from experience that a body in motion attracts life, and an abundance of ideas. Some of my greatest “aha” moments have arisen as I walked, deep in thought. 

I have recently felt a tug to return to walking more frequently, especially in nature. In spite of the title of this new Julia Cameron book, I had no idea that a weekly walk was going to be an ongoing assignment. 

I’m not surprised. As I worked through The Artist’s Way, I encounter synchronicities and a Divine leading that was very in tune with each upcoming week of assignments. It would appear that the guidance and synchronicities have already begun. Those are my strong signals that it’s time for this next journey. 

I’m ready.