When I was a teenager, I blue-tacked to the top of my walls a border made from stuck-together calendar pages. I almost never use calendars in a proper way (though am best friends with my scheduling diary – retro these days to have a physical one – we are halfway through 2017 and mine is already starting to fall apart from over-use). The images were all of nature themes – an insect on a dew-dropped leaf; a precise row of perfectly curved rocks leading out to an open ocean; a field of outrageously vibrant poppies (like in this photo I took the other day while out on a modelling shoot location), or an autumnal forest with a half-glow of light, a chaos of orange, reddened and chestnut coloured leaves, a soft bed in the forest. I used to look at them, one by one, and imagine myself inside their worlds. This was pre-instagram/meme-age, but each photograph had a quote superimposed over it for a casual bit of inspiration, and my all time favourite was this one:
‘Do not follow where the path may lead, but find your own way and lead a trail’.
When I was in Indonesia for the first time nearly two years ago, a healer asked me some questions, and one of them was ‘do you consider yourself a leader?’
I stumbled over the answer: my first (and lingering) instinct was to laugh. No, I don’t think so, I said. I told him I’m not really interested in leading people. I don’t really boss people about, ya know? (That said, I can be quite bossy, given half a chance.) Inside, I was thinking that a leader is someone who stands on a hilltop and expounds epiphanies to their awe-struck disciples. They have pie charts and give incentives. They have an army of people to whom they dictate their most fledgling thoughts, and to whose suggestions they respond with a curt ‘Put it to me in an email, OK?’, Malcolm Tucker style…
He raised his eyebrow, clearly having already made some decisions about me, and waited for me to continue my waffly answer. I’m not a follower though, I went on (the idea of being a follower is even more laughable to me, actually); I just do my own thing, mostly. His knowing silence led me to expand and question my denial of any notion of leadership (though even now I find the idea of identifying as a ‘leader’ quite odd). I think I mumbled something about noticing that people are sometimes aware that I do my own thing and possibly, possibly find it a little bit interesting. Aha, he said, as though that said it all.
Well, whatever; even without the pie charts it is certainly true that I naturally seem to do things differently. I am a heady mix of ‘ridiculous’ (just a couple of days ago I walked into a tree and apologised to a moth; separate incidents, I hasten to add) and madly ‘organised/ambitious’ (I have the most intricately-managed [aforementioned] self-imposed schedule to balance projects, mostly because I’m interested in everything, and at any given time am actively pursuing 783 different goals, just for fun). There isn’t much about my life now that is particularly conventional, despite a conventional upbringing, and I can put my hand up for being labelled as a ‘creative’ person, no hesitation required.
I read recently that we all have certain ‘themes’ to our lives. Among the other 967 other preoccupations/inclinations, I like to make myself and the things around me more beautiful. Leafology, with its focus on purity, simplicity, play, nature, self-creation & expression is one fresh, blooming and unfurling arena in which I practise becoming truly myself. (<<< This may be one of the most pretentious sentences I’ve ever written – and I’ve written many, I’m quite sure – but at risk of breaking the internet, I’m going to leave it there… Because it’s true, and isn’t truth the opposite of pretension?)