I have the privilege of sharing something extra special today. I’m interviewing Cecilia from The Kitchen’s Garden.
Cecilia writes a magnificent blog filled with gorgeous photographs of her farm, mouth-watering recipes made from her own homegrown ingredients, and episodes of her life recalled with the art of a true storyteller. She writes with such warmth that I’m sure I’m not the only reader who has an overwhelming urge to call her Aunty Celi.
Some of my favourite posts are her descriptions of picking up bees at the post office for use on her farm, teaching drama to troubled students at a high school in New Zealand and her nights as a nurse at an old age home.
So let’s ask her some questions!
Jessica: How many different roles and jobs have you taken on during your life and what are your current roles?
Cecilia: Hmm, well this is an interesting thought. Oh dear. OK I have been a Mother since I was 19. So every single one of my jobs has children attached. While in New Zealand I almost never had only one job so many of these overlapped. I was a single Mum bringing up children by myself for many many years, so I needed more than one job.
Here are a few of my paid jobs.
Life drawing model,
Director of theatre.
Drama teacher (also Head of Department, and Dean of Junior Students and Head of the Faculty of the Arts,)
Artistic Director for the National Youth Drama School in NZ.
Teacher of Teachers Teaching Drama
At one point (once my kids had left home) I took a year off and had a holiday as a Professional Nanny in Italy and England.
London: Personal Assistant to a Film Director, also as a reader (scripts) and script development.
U.S.: Now I am a writer and farmer. Though I make absolutely no money doing either (laughter).
Jessica: How do you manage to maintain such a creative passion in your life?
Cecilia: Very difficult question. I work very fast. (laughter) I would have to say honestly that passion is not something I create or actively maintain. Ideas appear. I do not even see myself as a passionate person. Pig headed maybe. Sometimes driven. Bloody is the word my mother would use to describe me. Thorny would be my fathers description. I have always written. I always have paper and a pen with me. I even have a little wooden box in the barn with writing supplies and a camera as I often get ideas when I am working out there. I have carried a camera everywhere since I was about 12.
I believe absolutely that the modern processed twinkie diet is ruining the mental and physical health of our generation and the next. So I do not eat processed foods. This is actually hard to do, especially when I am travelling. But those chemically adjusted foods slow me down, they make me sleepy and headachy. I am lucky that I can grow my own food.
I also am solid in my pursuit of independence. I want to be able to feed and warm myself and my people. Draw my own water out of the earth and heat it, ultimately make our own power. Then teach other people how to. It is a simple premise.
In biblical terms I am the Doubting Thomas, I will question everything. I want to know why and how and who told you and what did they know and where did that information come from. This is not a particularly popular way to be though. I find it very hard to conform. Is that what passion is? Well in that case I don’t need to maintain that. Passion is by its very nature passionate.
As to the creative side of my passion. Well that comes from building stuff. Building meals, ideas, sentences. Building my work, my images. Building the barn and gardens. I call it the monster. You start a project, you have an idea, you talk about it, you write it down, you begin to build it, you nurture it and breathe life into it and then it becomes a benevolent monster who rises up and gently but firmly takes the reins and you begin to ride the monster instead of leading it. It goes faster and faster, the monster breathes life into you, and pulls you along and more ideas come and more building is done because the monster demands it. And you are driven to the finish, often barely holding the reins. Life is that journey.
But it all begins with the notes, on those pieces of paper I have stuffed in my pockets like a boy with old nails jangling about in there. The notes and jottings are the basis of my creativity. They are my baby building blocks. I listen to them.
Also I never worry about where my next idea comes from. Because it always does. Worry causes a block in the entrance. I am not creative when I am worried. Though I am very creative when I am sad.
Jessica: Your blog shows off your skills in photography, writing, cooking, farming and many other areas. Are these abilities you’ve learned and developed individually, or did they all grow out of having a creative mindset?
Cecilia: Oh, I have to admit to being completely self taught in just about everything and still learning as fast as I am breathing. I call my family, friends and books my resources and ask questions all the time. I read everything and make notes. The old fashioned way. So I learn what I need to learn to get the job done. Everything I do, I do because I want to do it. When I say driven it is an inner drive. The monster and I haul ourselves up the next step then I look around and learn what I need to learn, to consolidate, then I look for the next step.
It drives John crazy. He says, ‘Are you ever satisfied?’ Oh yup. I am always satisfied but look at that. What is that? Can I have one? How do I make it? Here is a piece of paper. Draw me a picture of it.
A sustainable lifestyle accepts that each part is intertwined with the other and always shifting and changing. We have to think of our lives as a whole. Like the same sky but with different clouds moving and reforming sometimes drifting away. I have never attended a writing class or a photography class or for that matter a class on farming. Is that bad? Maybe that is bad. I am sure I would be way better if I had made the time to do these things. But I see life as a journey, a life that I love to live in. And until recently I always had children to protect, support and raise by myself.
Jessica: Recently you wrote about learning the word ‘alliteration’ at school when you were 11 years old. I was fascinated by the glee you expressed when learning new words at that age. Do you feel there were aspects of your childhood which helped you become a creative adult?
Cecilia: I did have an upbringing surrounded in art and books and beaches. I had great teachers. No one much picked on me. Though I have always been quiet and not prone to heaps of friends. My mother was sick most of my teenage years so I guess I was busy with my brothers and sisters.
But I have always had a soundtrack in my head and it is words. So this busy childhood doing mundane household chores and walking or biking back and forth from school, allowed me time for a lot of thinking and plotting.
Jessica: I hear you’re writing a manual for parents and nannies. You describe it as ‘a sensible reference book full of guidance for nannies managing other people’s children in other people’s homes and for the parents of those children.’ What kind of advice would you give for raising creative kids?
Cecilia: Encourage your child to paint, draw, cook and play with words. Ask them to tell you about their work. Listen to what they say. Encourage them to fill in all the spaces. Point out the one small part of their work that you really like. Then they will believe that you have seen them.
Let them get dirty and make a mess and gently teach them how to clean up after. Be involved.
Spend 15 uninterrupted minutes with each of your children each day. On the floor, face to face, with the child driving the conversation or play. Ask him or her what they want to do with you today. You would be amazed at how many people do not do this.
Throw your television out the window and talk to each other at dinner time. Eat good brain food.
Allow your child some time to do nothing. Hang around on the fence watching. Sitting in a tree watching. Lying on the ground looking at the clouds. Dreaming, singing to themselves. Thinking. Playing on the floor with the dog. Reading to themselves at bedtime.
I am at my most creative when I have allowed my brain to be at rest. This is why I get my best ideas when I am driving, or in the bath, or as I am going to sleep. Everyone needs down time. Kids too.
I hope you all enjoyed this interview. Now, are there any questions you’d like to ask Cecilia?
(All photos provided by Cecilia.)