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Doing not seeming - a mantra for life

When I was in my early twenties I read a book called My Life on an African Farm but the South African feminist writer Olive Shreiner. It was an old book - written in 1883 - and dealt with the constraints on women's lives as they grew up.

An unusual book, a book written through rage and published under a male pseudonym, it is one I return to again and again.

In it one of the characters, a young woman called Lyndall, sums up society's different attitudes to men and women - to men society says 'do', to women it says 'seem'.

Seeming and Doing, Doing and Seeming - those words have been following me around for the past few months and I've tried to work out exactly what causes my vertiginous unease about the way we present ourselves.

And I realised this week that a lot of the dissatisfaction I was feeling - especially with social media - is to do with the high level seeming and the low level of doing.

We no longer live in the world of C19th; women are no longer primed solely for marriage and motherhood, we are not valued primarily for looking attractive and keeping our clothes clean.

We have, as people, opportunities that were unimagined for Schreiner - we women can be 'the doctors and lawyers and lawmakers' that she dreamed of if we choose. Yet so often we fall into the trap of being satisfied with seeming rather than doing. I'm particularly worried that it may be something that women cling to, the restricting perfection of the surface rather than doing things and showing them in all their complicated messy reality.

A few years ago we visited Los Angeles on a family holiday, we went to Mulholland Drive to walk down into Runyon Canyon. As we changed our shoes a young woman in gym gear got out of a jeep, along with her photography team. She arranged herself, one leg up on a boulder, branded sports drink to her lips - her make up was touched up, photographs taken and they all got back in the car and drove off. Later that evening she posted her instagram photo about her tough hike up to Mulholland that day and how the sports drink kept her going. Seeming.

It is easy to dismiss this as just part of that 'social media influencers' thing - the way that commerce can warp what we think we are seeing, who we feel connected to - but I think it seeps further down too.

Into the resharing political posts, but not actually taking any action, into the removing all signs of life from our homes before we photograph them, into the hiding of neglected seedlings from a greenhouse shot and focussing on the ones we remembered to water, into the using Facetune to blur our wrinkles.

None of these things are terrible, I'm not saying that at all, there is no shaming going on here. I've certainly done the seedlings thing myself - I mean who wants to see half dead plants? - but bit by bit by bit, as we elevate the value of seeming - seeming neat, seeming competent, seeming in control and kind and liberal and wrinkle free - over the reality of doing we surely lose something of life. We scoot along the surface of life, tense and careful like a pond skater, because that is what we feel matters.

So this is my new mantra - Doing not Seeming - the thing I will use as a measure of everything I do and show from this point on. I shall be seeking out other doers. I hope that you will hold my standards high.

Comments: 2 (Add)

ALESSANDRA DA LUZ MONTEIRO on June 11 2019 at 14:24

Thanks for the amazing post! This is my new mantra too.

Claire Chalcraft on June 11 2019 at 14:51

Dear Jane
What a thought-provoking and beautifully written piece ... you have made me see how very naïve I am about social media! I had absolutely no idea that these kinds of thing were common place... Fancy pretending to hike somewhere just for the photo?!! Quite ridiculous! I haven’t ever been confronted by this sort of deception. I don’t have a TV and am not a consumer of a wide range of social media as I see only those I follow. I admire what you do and your thoughtful and intelligent approach to running your business and sharing your thoughts and ideas. Like you, I think I am drawn to « doers » rather than « seemers », life does seem better that way and the friendships and connections are real and rewarding - warmest wishes and grateful thanks for making me think xx Claire

Snapdragon social

Yesterday marked 32 years since Euan and my first date. I spent time looking through photo albums for a record of that time. There weren’t any photos - I don’t think I had a camera or the cash needed to develop photos back then - but there were a few pressed flowers. ⠀
I don’t know what they were from, I should have labelled them, but they obviously meant enough to keep. ⠀
This photo is of the little brass frame from our Flower Press kit that was the most recent Studio Box. We have a few left packed up and after that it will be repackaged as a more expensive gift version. ⠀
If you were thinking of buying one, either as a one off or as the start of a quarterly subscription you can find out more by clicking the link in my profile.
Poppies are really the best cut flowers. Especially if you are stuck inside and can watch them gradually open. All varieties work - from wild corn poppies to the flamboyant oriental poppies. ⠀
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Cut them in full bud, if you can see the petals just about to burst through that’s perfect. ⠀
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Sear the bottom inch of stem in boiling water for 5 seconds and then arrange. The lower stem will go black so best in an opaque vase. ⠀
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If you recut above the black line you need to re-sear. ⠀
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They should last 5 days. 5 days of wonder.
Yesterday was the first hot day, the first day in the garden when I didn’t feel that all my poor plants are shivering and shrinking. ⠀
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It was also the first day for weeks that I had completely clear, no plans, no work, nothing but time to potter and plant. Glorious. ⠀
What is your weekend like? ⠀
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(Today it is back to being windy but I don’t care as I’m also back at work, prepping everything so that we are ready to send out the magazine part of A Seasonal Way next week)
How do you manage different layers of privacy, vulnerability and messy beginnings online?  I was musing about this yesterday, all the different things I put out into the world - and how I choose where to post them. ⠀
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How I choose what to post here, what goes out in my general newsletter, what goes into my Studio Members Newsletter and what gets posted into my (free) closed Facebook Group Snapdragon Studio Bee. ⠀
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It’s all subtle stuff, the difference I suppose in what you would talk about in a live interview and what you would chat to the interviewer about later, off the record, over coffee. Both conversations are likely honest and true, but one might still be evolving and feel too unformed, too fragile for public consumption.⠀
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I’ve decided to document my beginnings with screen printing in the Snapdragon Studio Bee Facebook Group - it’s a really supportive group and I’ve no fear of judgment in there - if you want to join you would be really welcome. It’s thankfully not a competitive, ego driven group so I think I will feel very comfortable sharing the things that don’t work as well as those that do.
Yesterday was a stressful day.  Our big printer, which does all the textile things, keeled over with a fatal error.⠀
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Repair is seemingly not possible, replacement too expensive.  We had to take about 40% of the things we sell off various websites.  It's not ideal.⠀
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But after I'd got over the frustration of number crunching and having to cancel orders, it seemed like an opportunity really.⠀
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Val and I have been talking about screen printing since the beginning of the year - it is one of the reasons we cleared the workshop so that there is a long central working space.⠀
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I want to be able to draw directly on the screens - and play about with the technique a bit, make the results really immediate, sketched, mine.⠀
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I've ordered supplies and will be working away playing with the technique over the next week or so.⠀
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Sometimes it seems that when I don't move fast enough towards something, fate just seems to create mayhem until there are no other options left but to just ‘do it’. ⠀
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Does anyone else find that?
What is your favourite way to make a house a home? 
I'm not a tidy person - my natural persona is more like Thing 1 and Thing 2 in the Cat in the Hat, everywhere I have been, there is a trail of mess left behind. ⠀
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When I wanted to leave my job as a museum curator Euan said I could do anything I wanted to, he would always support my decision, as long as I didn't attempt to become a housewife because I would be truly terrible at it.⠀
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On Tuesdays though Izabella comes and cleans the house for us (this is why my embroidery morning is a Tuesday, so I can keep out of the way)⠀
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Walking back into the house on a Tuesday lunchtime is always such a lovely feeling - the kitchen is tidy, the floors mopped, order is restored.⠀
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I try to take advantage of the sense of homeliness by doing some of the things I am good at - arranging flowers, cooking.  Often I do so much of these faffing about domestic things that I have managed to make the kitchen a mess by the time anyone else gets home.⠀
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The plum poppies are blooming.  A week late, but here to say happy anniversary Jenny and Jeremy. #ayearinflowers #week24
How tidy are you? Do you like everything out and to hand or do you prefer clear surfaces and blank space?

It’s Tuesday today so that means my embroidery day as I build up a little collection of limited edition works which then go up into the webshop on the last Friday of each month. (Studio members get first dibs and then the link goes into my newsletter later in the day)

I took this photo yesterday afternoon of the bench that is next to my sewing machine. Untidied, un-arranged, but with rather nice light coming in the window. 
There is a half made doorstop, some piles of cut wool to be embroidered and the threads I like to have near at hand. You can see that the wall where I work used to have tiles on it, you can see that I’m neither neat nor organised. 
Showing my day - a 10 second photo, full of reality, potential, and life is what I meant when I talked about doing and Social media last week. 
#doingnotseeming
I welcomed the rain yesterday - it didn't seem so bad to be indoors proofing the final version of the A Seasonal Way magazine.⠀This goes alongside the e-course and community and is at the heart of the whole thing 🌱
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It goes to print tomorrow so I need to decide the final numbers today.  I'm not going to be able to print another run, but equally I don't want to be left with lots of copies.⠀
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So today is the last day to order to guarantee that your A Seasonal Way has a hard copy rather than a digital copy of the magazine part.⠀
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This article is about off grid holidays, why they appeal and what we get from them.  The mug in the background with coffee is by @amandabanhamceramics.⠀
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You can find out more about the A Seasonal Way course by clicking through my profile, or in the A Seasonal Way story highlight.  I would love it if you felt you could share about what I'm doing here!  The more people join in, the better the community will be.
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About Snapdragon

At Snapdragon we gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

Through our communities, both free and paid for, through Jane's writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted gifts and activity kits, and through our online and in-person workshops we aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

Learn more about why here

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