Monday, 25 June 2012

A Week by the Sea

I've spent the last week in my favourite corner of the UK; holed up in a 1930's holiday chalet which was nestled in the dunes at Hayle and overlooked the beautiful bay of St Ives.

From the moment we arrived, real life seemingly paused.  The windows of our wooden home looked out over vast expanses of Cornish countryside, or over the dunes and the sea to St Ives.  Worries and niggling thoughts melted away with the first walk on the beach; glassy green waves breaking with a hiss on the ochre shore, seagulls wheeling and calling in the wind whipped blue sky above.  Bare feet on sand, the first kiss of the ocean on your toes, inhaling deep salty breaths of pure clean air, collecting mussel shells and pieces of driftwood.  It felt like coming home.

I'm very much at home by the water, and there are lots of watery signs in my astrology chart which may explain why I yearn for it so much ~ I'm a cusp baby of Pisces and Aries, and have a Scorpio moon.

I love the colours of the coast, they wash the soul and renew the spirit ~ turquoise, aquamarine, jade and blue...

We spent as much time as we could by the sea; walking out to sand islands left by the receding tide...

We had a barbeque on the beach one evening; catching the tantalising smell of sizzling hot dogs on the breeze as we splashed in the sea, racing up to the rocks at the back of the beach to sit and eat them whilst watching the crystal water lap lazily onto the creamy, shell sprinkled sand.

I spent a lazy hour or so wandering around St Ives town, soaking in the atmosphere.  Beyond the bedlam of the well trodden tourist path there is a maze of tiny cobbled back streets, fishermens cottages, tiny galleries and glimpses of the sea...

There are tiny roads with names like Wheal Dream, and bunting flutters festively between the rooftops.  There are terracotta pots bulging with scarlet and raspberry geraniums, little windows displaying colourful art and craft.  And there is the constant energy of the sea, always just around the next corner or down the next lane; you feel it in your bones and there's always the anticipation at catching that wonderful glimpse of it again and again...

Having our little girl with us meant that our days were full of fun and games, running in and out of the sea, seal spotting, picnics on the beach, trips to the zoo and plenty of sandcastle building and eating of ice-creams. Relaxed and happy times indeed!

Going away somewhere beautiful allows you to recharge fully.  I found myself watching a dramatic sunset one evening and contemplating this slower pace of life that had taken hold since our arrival and I determined there and then to try and implement aspects of it when I returned home.  I saw how much time I sometimes spend on stuff that isn't that important; things like the internet, creating extra (and unnecessary) work for myself.  I think we are all capable of filling our lives to the brim, that we all forget to stop sometimes and take stock of what's working for us - or not.

I'm moving into the slow lane, making decisions based on what feels good for me, not what I think I ought to be doing, not what pleases everyone else.

I read a brilliant book last week, I found it on the bookshelf in the chalet and read it each evening. The message in this book touched me so much I've bought my own copy; it's called A year by the Sea by Joan Anderson.  It tells the story of how over the years of her life as a wife and mother she unconsciously replaced her own needs and dreams with those of her nearest and dearest.  With her sons grown and her marriage souring she retreats to a beach cottage on Cape Cod and spends a year rediscovering herself, working out what it is she wants to do with her life and who she wants to be.  It's a really inspiring read and I recommend it heartily.  I love my family dearly and would (and do) do anything for them, but I know that since having a family my life became very much about nurturing others, my needs mostly being at the bottom of a long list and very often not met.

I'm conscious that writing this may raise an eyebrow or two, some of you may think it sounds selfish to make such a brazen statement of things not being enough when it seems from the periphery that I have so much.

And I do have so much, there are many blessings in my life and I'm grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way.  But I like the idea of finding myself again, of slowing my life down enough to be able to figure out what's really meaningful - for me and my family to live a nourishing, fulfilling life that works for us all, where all our needs are met.  I think this is becoming a journey year for me, I've gone through some big changes and have reached a point where I was asking 'is this it, is this all there is?' whilst already knowing the answer:

Of course it isn't.

It's just a phase of growth and change.

So I watched that glowing nectarine sun sink into a velvety lavender sea and felt very peaceful; just acknowledging that I needed to take my own voyage of self discovery was like being handed a magical key to the next step.  The feeling of struggle had gone, and I knew that with time and a little exploration everything would all fall into place.

I'm happily going to gesso a canvas now, there are some new paintings I'd like to let loose and I'll share them with you all soon.

Sending you love, wherever you are in the world.


  1. Hi Julia,

    This looks so lovely and so relaxing.......waw!

    Can I ask where you came across the holiday chalet?

  2. Hi Julia, I love this post and tour photos. Don't feel bad about the thoughts you express, I think many of us feel the same. With all the work you do, both for your family and business, you deserve time for yourself too! Thanks for the book tip, I will be on THE look out for it. Warm regards from Amsterdam! Caroline

  3. Hello Irene, we stumbled upon the chalet one evening back in February whilst googling places to stay in Cornwall. The chalet was on the Riviere Towans at Hayle; there are many old timber framed chalets from the 30's that have been beautifully restored dotted about the dunes, and most with sea views. It's like stepping back in time, a really nostalgic and unspoilt place. You can find them here:

    Love J xxx

  4. Thank you for the information on the links to the chalets. Please don't feel bad about your thoughts. I think that most mothers and wives are the same, it is our natural instinct to always put our loved ones first, our own needs are often the last thing that we get around to, I don't know about you but an example that I can think of is my children would have the first hot bubble bath, and then due to saving water and because of the limited hot water I would get in at the end.

    Now with children nearly 17 and 18 I feel a little lost when it comes to them, I am not 'needed' often, so much of my life has been lived out for them, their needs etc that now I have time to myself I have almost forgotten who I am. I look through blogs etc and see happy family lives and wish so much so that I could have them little again, to enjoy each moment rather then wish them to be a bit bigger, to be a bit more independent.

    I know I spend too much time on the internet, too much time thinking about what I should be doing rather then listening to myself.

    I think I shall look out for that book to. I think that many of us on on a journey of self discovery, I am embarking of a much slower pace of life, a new chapter, but foremost are my family, but I need to remind myself that I too am part of that.

    And the pure luxury of running a bubble bath for just myself is bliss!!

  5. Lindo, Lindo, Lindo.
    Que cor mais linda desse mar.
    Um abraço.
    Um abraço,
    Rosangela / Brasil.

  6. Lindo, lindo, lindo.
    Que cor mais linda desse mar.
    Um abraço, Rosangela / Brasil.

  7. Hello Julia,
    I have really, really enjoyed reading this latest post. And the photographs are quite simply stunning. I always enjoy reading your blog and today's is no exception. I, too, feel the call of Cornwall and love that first deep breath of salty air. Just perfect.
    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and photos.
    Your friend,
    Kate x

  8. How inspiring! And I know just what you mean about life being slightly on hold. Add my elderly Dad into the equation and I really do sometimes yearn to escape (whilst loving everyone dearly of course!)

  9. Hi Julia,

    I've been a follower for awhile now, but I don't think I've ever commented. I was wondering if you've ever read Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindburgh. Written years and years ago, but timeless. It talks about the different stages of our lives and how they resemble shells from the sea. I think you'd love it. Don't feel bad about needing a break. I was told years ago if you don't take a break, and replenish YOU, then you won't be good for anyone else. It's true.

    Cindy Bee

  10. I loved this Julia and it is a great reminder that I need to slow it all down too. I seem to have forgotten the very things I love like looking around me and noticing everything. Particularly poignant as I am Cornish and get to see this wonderful landscape every day. Lovely xx

  11. Hi Cindy, thank you so much for writing ~ it must be serendipity because it was only yesterday that I ordered that very book from Amazon! There was a link from A Year By The Sea to books 'I might like' and when I read about it, it seemed the perfect companion. Thank you for suggesting it, Im looking forward to reading it.

    Love J xxxxxx

  12. Hello Colette, thank you so much for writing. It seems that there are many of us out there, reaching that point where we yearn for a little bit more. And I see that it's not selfish to want those things, to want our needs met, to want to be our truest and fullest selves. Thank you so much for sharing your story, wise words indeed.

    Much love, J xxxxxxxxxxxx

  13. Looks like an amazing place. And even when we know we are blessed with things we NEED in life, sometimes it's important to have things we WANT --- not in a greedy sense, but in a self-motivating sense. Keeps up growing and evolving!

  14. Having just visited Cornwall from Australia I can understand how you would have slowed down enough to just be. So glad you had a lovely time rediscovering yourself and making plans.
    Taking care of you and your needs is not selfish. When you are filled up with what you need you can take better care of others.
    Enjoy the journey.
    Anne xxx

  15. Hi Julia,

    What a truly beautiful place! The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher is my favorite book, and I know that it was set in St. Ives. How lovely to see photos of a place that I read about almost every summer.

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, because there are lots of us out here going through much the same thing! I am off to look up your reading recommendation!

  16. I loved reading his post, from the stunning photo's to the awareness in your descriptions, the written word is beautiful.
    No odd looks here, i think our lives evolve, and as a mummy, wife & nurse, I feel I spend my life caring for other's, sometimes I feel 'me' gets lost in it all. But life is a journey & i know this is my life at the moment, its good, but a little 'me' time goes a long way, its treasured, and I am a better person for it.
    It's my time to care & give, like my mum did before me, and her's before. Time will come for more me time, before I need caring for! I just try too remember to hold onto little bits of me, so its not all swallowed up in the day to day.


  17. I recognise that beautiful scenery so well (I grew up in Pz) and your photos do that lovely area justice. Lucky with the weather I see! I would love to see what those wooden chalets look like inside, having seen them so frequently on walks around the dunes.

  18. Pati from London25 June 2012 at 21:05

    Dear Julia, what a wonderful post. The pictures are gorgeous and it does look like a truly beautiful place to visit. Everybody says that Cornwall is lovely so we'll definitely have to go soon. The book suggestion seems very interesting too. I was thinking that I may propose it as a choice for my bookclub group (I'm hosting it next month so it's my turn to suggest titles!!!). Do you think it would be good for a discussion? Your thoughts on motherhood and the search for one self, did hit a cord with me as I am going through the same thing at the moment. Life is busy with 3 little ones here and yes, the thing that I miss the most now that I am a mum is time, time to myself. That same thing that I took for granted before I had children.... I'm doing another University degree, retraining myself if you like to hopefully reinvent myself and find a job when my little ones are a bit older and also doing loads of craft stuff in the meantime to relax and nurture the other side of my brain... It is difficult though to find yourself in the middle of our busy lives and it is always good to have breaks, sometimes it is even good to have a weekend to yourself, away from everyone else (even staying at home whilst everyone else is with the in-laws) to recharge. I find that that helps and it is good for the relationship too (Like Gibran said: Let there be spaces in your togetherness....). I've followed your blog for a long time now; it is one of my favourites. Have a lovely evening, Pati x

  19. Hi Pati, thanks so much for writing and for sharing your story. The book would be a brilliant choice for a book group, in fact Im sure in the back of it there is a section which offers points for discussion etc which might be useful for you and the other readers.
    I liked what you wrote about it being difficult to find ourselves in the middle of our busy lives (so true) - and I also like the wisdom of taking a weekend off which is something I might look at doing every now and then if my family are open to that kind of thing. If you do read A Year by the Sea, then one of Joan's other books, A Weekend to Change your Life might be a good one to follow up with, especially if you manage to bag another weekend of solitude for yourself!

    Sending love
    Julia x x x

  20. Lydia, thank you for your wise words.

    Much love Julia xxxxxx

  21. One corner of the country that I've never made it to - probably because it is the furthest point from Scotland - but you;ve just moved it up my wishlist a few notches. What is is about the sea ? I've noticed that as long as I have some water near by I'm happier and calmer. The sea, a river or canals - all can do the trick - but the sea is best of all. Thanks for the book suggestion too - will look that out. And I think that searching questing reinventing can apply to anyone in any kind of life, not just those who are in that hectic stage of parenting little kids - the sentiment is quite universal.

  22. Joan's books are amazing; they are part of what is changing my life.

  23. Dear Julia This is a gorgeous post, I adore St Ives and your pictures are wonderful!
    Simplifying and re thinking what suits you best in your life and art is something I think all artist mothers have to do some times. And also changing plans according to whatever presents itself - or not- is another feature of this way of life. My own experience as a freelance designer over many years is that you never know what's round the corner and sometimes it can be amazing! Just keep on creating the work you most want to do, and it will all work out.....
    thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures and your thoughts too. Hope you have a happy week.
    Helen x

  24. What lovely photographs, I didn't think it was possible to be looking forward to my holiday to cornwall in a couple of weeks any more than I already am, but the peacefulness your photos exude has made me just that little bit more excited.
    I sympathise with what you mean about stopping to have a bit of me time, although I suppose I'm experiencing a similar thing from a different perspective at the moment. I've increasingly found myself defining myself in terms of my degree and weekend job over the past academic year, running on a kind of autopilot to get everything done and taking little time out for myself. It's so easy to just keep rolling on with life without stopping to think about what you are doing and where you want to go next isn't it? It's so easy just to finish one thing and then move straight onto the next thing that needs doing and before you know it so much time had passed without you having had the time to stop and really appreciate and consider the world around you. I hope you get a weekend to yourself or at least some time to unwind in the near future :)

  25. Pati from London27 June 2012 at 09:40

    Thanks Julia,
    I have purchased the book plus the other one suggested by one of your readers "Gift from the sea" by Ann Morrow. I have found this post very inspiring and am enjoying reading your readers comments also.
    Will definitely suggest it for the bookclub. Have a peaceful day,
    Pati x

  26. hi julia, what a lovely post and what beautiful pictures. It's so bizarre - I feel I am being drawn to the sea the past few days. Just earlier I spoke to a friend on the phone and I was a little frazzled about all I have to do and housework and work work piling up and she asked what would I like to do if I could do anything ... my reply was simply "walk on the beach". I don't even mean on holiday or even in the sun - just that walk on the beach with the sound of the waves. And now I read your post after not visiting for so long. Funny how these things happen. I;ve pencilled down the book you mentioned also. Hope your decisions don't involve leaving your blog as it's such a treat to visit x

  27. I love serendipity Michelle, it's funny how when we focus on something it seems to be drawn into our experience! I hope you manage to get a 'real life' walk on the beach soon, and rest assured I won't be abandoning my blog anytime soon ~ you lovely comment was much appreciated, thanks very much for writing.

    Love J x x x

  28. I have the Joan Anderson book and I have to say I don't think you are being at all selfish. As a stay at home mum (from choice) raising two boys back in the 70s and 80s, I of course put their needs first and foremost. But I also made sure there was me time, where I went and did what I wanted, whilst they were at school or in the evenings when my husband was around to look after them. Now I am much older (where did the time go... sigh!) and a whole lot wiser and I realised quite some time ago that it is best to be myself, to stop pretending to be someone or something I am not. I am not particularly maternal, I can't paint for toffee, I am impatient, outspoken, and other negative words could be attributed to me too. But there are lots of positives... won't bore you with those! Life gets better, it gets shorter sadly but that only reinforces the need to make the most of it, in whatever way suits you best.

  29. I don't have to tell you how much I love St Ives - you already know! And i have my own jaunt planned in a few weeks time. Don't feel bad about wanting a little bit of your old self back - we all get pulled in so many directions that we often forget who we are! I miss some elements of the old me, but find that now I have a little bit more time for myself, they are still here waiting for when no one else wants a piece of me! xxxx

  30. Julia your holiday photos are soo beautiful, just wish I could be there! so much blue (it's pretty grey and green up here in Cumbria...tho its lovely too) and then all the colours of your gorgeous crochet goodies, love it all! it's hard to admit family life can be tying and you're brave to be honest, I'm sure we've all had those thoughts at times...thanks for sharing. off to find the book ...Emmax

  31. You will love it Julia, I can just tell. I used to listen to it on tape every Spring. It seems like we go through 'seasons' in our life and that's just what she talks about in Gift from the Sea. You are going through a season. I predict when you finish the book, you will add shells to your wonderful artwork and those shells will have meaning. I love your art, by the way.

    Cindy Bee

  32. Hello Julia!
    I hope that I will see all of this beauty reflected in your art!

  33. So lovely to find you! I am currently sitting by the sea in my Beach House in Brittany and your words are inspiring me to take a closer look at my life. I'm on a two month career break with the kids as they reach the independence of their teenage years. Looking forward to what's next, I will definitely take some time to relook at myself and who I am. Thanks for the lovely post on St Ives, I'm a Cornish girl returning there in August so has reminded me of some of my favourite haunts...... Lizzi x


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