“A problem is a chance for you to do your best.” So said composer Duke Ellington.
In these days- indeed years-of Covid, Mr Ellington’s words ring loud and clear.
Many people have had to dig deep to come to terms with ordinary everyday challenges as they experience this horrid pandemic.
Coping mechanisms vary from person to person just to get through the day.
This week, The Kilkenny Observer met up with long time Grow advocate Mike Watts and discovered that his way of fighting the problems that Covid brought was to publish a book.
Mike explained: “My ABC started out as a way of coping with the long Covid evenings.
I find drawing and coloring-in very relaxing, and as
I love butterflies and insects and flowers, that’s what I drew.”
Mikes collection of creatures all travelling along a pathway towards the sun and when the sun put both his thumbs up as if in approval he knew he was on the right track.
“I called that first drawing A for Adventure.
B was for Beauty, C for Community, D for Day by Day, and on it went , incorporating each letter of the alphabet”, Mike explained.
A self-confessed lover of mediation, Mr Watts explained that each picture became a meditation and really got him thinking about life.
He began to enjoy the process and soon he was on a roll.
E was for eggs.
Mike recalled that as a boy he and his friends collected bird’s eggs, each one quite different, each one uniquely beautiful.
It was while he was drawing he realized almost everything comes from an egg, insects, fish, human beings.
F was for flourishing. He drew a tree with young people at the top and old ones on the lower branches.
G was for gifts, the gifts of nature and of life.
H was for haymaking.
Mike remembered that as a child he used to make hay by hand, turning the heavy swathes of grass until they became light and smelled delicious, everyone working together in the fields.
Religion played a part in the book also as Mike explained that I was for I AM a quote from the bible, a name for God or maybe the spirit that is in each one of us.
J was obviously for Joy but then K was for Knots.
RELATIONSHIPS AND STRUGGLES
“The knots we tie ourselves into with relationships and communication, power struggles, climate change, wars and indifference, play a huge role”, said Mike.
L had to be for Life. “I drew lines of tiny people in different colours, everyone who has ever lived.
It turned into a tapestry so I put a needle in the last row and a piece of thread.”
Known to play an odd tune on the tin whistle and mouth organ M was definitely for music.
According to Mike, there is a scientist who says the whole universe is held together by music, and that there is music inside every atom.
N turned out to be New Horizons.
As our world changes it is sometimes hard to see ahead.
O became Oh, a sound of wonder at the beauty of the Kilkenny countryside.
P became priorities, a question to myself.
What is really important? What can I do without or stop worrying about?
Q was Quietness. “
We seem to be surrounded by noise, the radio, the traffic, podcasts, messages.
How nice it was to sit in the quiet drawing a picture of quietness.”
R was for rest. I took a picture drawn for a poem about a bear who didn’t want to hibernate in case he missed Christmas.
T became Twists and Turns the unexpected things that happen.
U had to be the universe which contains everything, the earth the sea, the land and sky ,the birds and fish and you and I.
The letter V stumped him for a long time. He quickly rejected Vitamins, and Vitality and settled on Vulnerability.
Mike explained that he put in a drawing of the corona virus and climate change with a robin looking out from the branch of a tree.
ENTER THE VIKINGS
W had to be water. Vikings rowing and sailing across the sea, the rain coming down then evaporating into the clouds and a young fellow with a glass in his hand.
X definitely marked the spot. The place to look for treasure the place you might find your heart.
Y was for Youngsters. A baby in a nappy and a puppy talking to a bird.
Finally Z. Well ZZZZ stands for sleep and for the buzzing of bees so I put a bee lying on a leaf floating down the river. I hope he’s just asleep.
BOOK IS BEAUTIFULLY PRODUCED
It was a pleasure spending time in the company of Mike Watts and there is no doubt that this beautifully produced book will find its way onto the shelves of many booklovers over Christmas
The book costs €7.50 and is available from email@example.com and in Khan’s Books James St.
Mike Watts has been a member of various creative writing groups since 1980, in Galway and Kilkenny. His poems have been published in Writing in the West, Poetry Galway, Salmon, Poems from a Kilkenny Laneway, and the Kilkenny Broadsheet.