Words from Sicily: a slice of life

I’ve been going through a bit of a creative lull lately. It usually happens at this time of year in Sicily; the summers on the island are generally so torrid and filled with humidity that my concentration is permanently shot. I typically go on holiday and forget about getting my productivity back.

I try to be kind to myself, go to the beach, which cools and relaxes me or spend my time with my family, which always revives me. While travel has been out of bounds, for now, I try to refill my creative font. I’m catching up on my reading, doing an online course about something I’m interested in, looking at art, listening to music, and generally trying not to listen to the negative self-talk that seems to permeate so many creative types.

Lately, I’ve been reminded about the nature of creativity by revisiting some inspiring creatives to remind me to keep going and that my creations are worth sharing.

On Instagram, I follow Inspired to Write by Amie McNee, who has a podcast titled Unpublished with her partner @jimmywinestock and writes about the importance of journaling and how to come back from burnout. Her Instagram feed is a constant reminder of the importance of creativity, and her love letters to artists are a continuous source of inspiration.

I recently came across the work of Morgan Harper Nichols, whose book Storyteller randomly came up on my recommended reading on Amazon Kindle. This book is filled with letters that remind us of the small moments in life, little observations and inspirational thoughts that are an excellent source of hope whenever you may feel down. As well as being a writer and poet she also is a visual artist. Her Instagram is filled with inspiration, affirmations, and ways of expressing gratitude and appreciating the moment; I find her work beautifully grounded, especially when feeling overwhelmed.

I’ve gradually becoming addicted to the Youtube channel titled Purple Palace, which documents American artist Shayna Klee and her journey living and working in Paris, France. Her weekly videos are so honest. She is the most generous and creative person you will ever see on video and shares everything with deep honesty and a desire for authenticity. She’s like the honest friend you wish you had, telling us we need to follow our dreams, that it’s never too late, to make bad art and take up space with our creations.

I particularly like how Shayna doesn’t shy away from the negative aspects of day-to-day life; she believes every emotion needs to be expressed, she says: even tears have a purpose. She’s told us about her struggles as an ex-pat in Paris, her bad neighbour experience, life in art school and the grief she’s been through during her divorce. It’s refreshing and inspiring to see someone live their authentic life and reminding everyone else how we are important and how our stories can inspire others and help lift one another in moments of despair.

Every year I always try to re-read what I like to call Austin Kleon’s holy trinity of creativity. This creative guru has written three books that should be required reading for anyone who wants to do anything creative: Show your work, Keep going and Steal like an artist are beautiful inspirations.

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up the 25th-anniversary edition of Julia Cameron’s The artist’s way, a self-guided course that helps everyone connect to their creativity. I was following Cameron on Instagram without realising she had written this legendary book.

Cameron’s Instagram feed offers up beautiful quotes that should be printed out and stuck up on any mood board pinned directly in your line of sight at your writing desk to remind you of the magic and importance of creativity. Julia Cameron has inspired countless artists of every type to tap into their creativity and make beautiful art.

Even Elizabeth Gilbert says Eat, Pray, Love wouldn’t have existed without The Artists Way. More importantly, Cameron says all humans are creative animals so that anyone can tap into this gift.

So as I digest all of these fonts of inspiration and take time to slow down a little for some self-care, I’ll continue to share my photography.

As I’ve been looking back through my photos, I find things have become a blur lately. I’m torn between sharing single images and then tempted to group them into particular themes. The themed groups are a little more challenging to weave together in these blog posts while looking at one photo in depth is also satisfying. So I’m torn between the two, I’ll see where my thoughts go this week as my fingers seem to have found a little momentum on the keyboard today.

The photo’s that seem to speak to me the loudest express the magic of a moment, a slice of life, which leaps out at me and makes me hit that shutter button on my camera.

Like the golden moment at the Duomo of Monreale at Palermo, where I saw a man enter through the main door, look up and react to seeing the golden mosaics for the first time. I must have had the same expression on my face.

Or, while waiting in line to go in to see the Duomo at Monreale, I was feeling overwhelmed. The endless stream of people crowding ad the entrance waiting to get in was suffocating. Then I saw the Virgin Mary statue, which was in contrast to the craziness happening below. I wish I could have floated above the crowd and avoid the confusion as she does.

I recall these tourists taking a rest and fanning themselves with their hats on a bench. They were below the statue of William II of Sicily holding the cathedral in his hands. According to a legend, the King fell asleep under a tree while hunting near Monreale. The Virgin Mary appeared to him in a dream, asking him to build a church on the site.

The simplicity of just sitting in the shade during a balmy summer afternoon has a simple poetry to it. Groups of Italian kids often agree to meet in the piazza to hang out together or as a meeting point before doing something else. It’s an intergenerational habit that has always existed in Italy and its a beautiful things to witness little groups of friends forming around the squares as the heat gives way to the coolness of summer evenings.

I always love Sicilian piazza life; there is always a bustle of people in the squares. As Italy is beginning to open up for the summer, I can picture every Italian piazza starting to come alive again, filled with locals, tourists and people of all kinds sitting and enjoying the moment.

And with that thought, I might go outside and enjoy the moment here in Sicily. I encourage you to do that too this week, go out if you can, enjoy the summer because many people are still in lockdown.

And if you are stuck inside again, think of the joy you will feel as soon as it’s ended. We all need to take a moment to appreciate our freedom.

Remember to take that trip today, eat the cake, make the phone call, say yes to everything that will bring you new experiences. Try to make additions to your memories because regret is a terrible thing and because it will not always be possible to do, so do all you can.