I love collecting souvenirs from walks and travels: leaves, shells, feathers, stones. With autumn setting in, I thought this was a perfect way to celebrate the season. I made this piece with leaves I’ve collected from walks around Cambridge. The Oxalis triangularis (pretty flower-like leaf at the bottom) is a houseplant I dearly love and have managed to keep alive for almost a year now. The first leaf is from the gorgeous tulip trees that line the avenues in the Backs in Cambridge. The second is from my Pilea (Chinese money plant) — note how curly the edges are though they appear perfectly round on the plant. The third leaf is from the Beechwoods Nature Reserve near Great Shelford. I love looking up at beech canopies and how the angle of sunlight can change the colours! The cherry tree leaf (‘winds I’ve weathered’) is from the trees where I live, Cherry Hinton. I love how pretty cherry trees look in autumn, such beautiful gold-red shades! Both maple leaves are from trees in Cherry Hinton Hall Park. The oak has become a nice familiar tree, I picked up this classic beauty on a road near my place. The bracken fern leaf I found this autumn on a hike in Eskdale, Lake District – the plant that gives the hills their gold-brown colour. The second last leaf is from the mostly-ignored pile of leaves that collect below my Ficus houseplant, one I’ve had for over three years. The gingko (last leaf) is from trees somewhere in the town centre: I like how they’re one of the oldest species of tree (with all others in the family being extinct) but to me they always look fresh, new and welcoming.
I’ve always dreamt of doing something heroic. I’m not even sure what that really means but I’m constantly chasing the idea that life has a Grand Scheme or Hidden Purpose that I’m yet to discover, and when I do, I’ll Change the World.
I’m now starting to realize this is possibly because of a keen sense of inadequacy that I’ve always had. The idea that I’m supposed to throw myself into some all-consuming mission also means that I consistently fail to meet my own expectations. Sometimes when I’m clearing weeds in the garden I come across earthworms, possibly one of my favourite creatures. (Also one of the cleanest to dissect in zoology lab haha.) Earthworms are beautiful unassuming little fellows, working away patiently, doing their thing, rarely making a public appearance, helping fields and flowers grow above ground, while they bury deeper. And I derive so much comfort from this: that maybe there’s no grand plan at all but just a collection of the little things we do. Maybe like earthworms, we can make our lives mean something by just doing our bit without worrying about the impact, by getting out of the way, and by being mostly harmless.
Mental illness can be terribly isolating. We often end up hating ourselves for not feeling okay, while everyone else seems to race past us. It can be terrifying to feel like you’re going to be judged — at home, at work, in our own ‘safe zones’ that we create for ourselves.
It helps to know that you are not alone.