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learning to turn

It is mid-afternoon and the light from outside my window feels withholding... as though it's tired, too. Perhaps, it needs to stretch or a change of scene as much as I do. Or maybe, it's just out for a jaunt and will return when it's good and ready. It doesn't exist for me, after all.

Rooted at my studio desk, I pause to take a sip of almond milk latte and turn to glance over my shoulder at my sleeping calico tabby (Mimo) as the first sounds of a gentle rain reach the large magnolia leaves outside. A deep exhale escapes, and blink in surprise. I hadn't realized I'd been holding my breath.

These past few years have been strange ones. They've encompassed so much outside of the already tumultuous global pandemic raging-then-lingering-then-raging-on-again. Through it all, I've come to appreciate the word 'turn'.

Just like holding my breath and tensing up when I can choose to breathe, I often find myself painted into a corner only to realize that I'm the one holding the paintbrush.

I'm so quick to create rules and expectations for myself, which I use as a sort of rubric by which I then critique my progress, assessing whether or not I've delivered on the various roles I fill. But this hasn't been a kind practice to myself, so I’m trying my best to turn.

The word 'turn' reminds me that even when I find myself painted into a corner, brush in hand, that I can shift my weight, angle myself in a different direction, and make a choice. I can ask questions and voice my thoughts and choose how I want to respond. And I can take my time in doing instead of hurrying so as not to keep someone waiting.

As much as I wish I were a bit further along in the process, I'm still learning how to pull back from meeting the expectations I think others have for me, and let them actually tell me what they want or need before I move to meet them. I’m getting more comfortable saying, "No" or "Not yet" without feeling badly, and keeping an eye out for alternate routes than my default setting that finds me rushing to accommodate others’ needs before I pause to consider my own. I’m learning to protect the time I need to be well- or as well as can be.

One of my favorite things about autumn (and winter here in SoCal), is when the leaves begin to turn. Vibrant greens fade to brown, red, and gold, each leaf letting go when it’s ready to flutter down and be still, the soil granted mulch and the promise of new growth.

This year, I'm making a conscious effort to stay open to 'turning'. To practice putting the paintbrush down and letting myself see that all is not stagnant or unmoving. To shift the weight beneath my feet and take new steps.

This #lacelitpaperlings came about during my autumn-themed virtual creative retreat in November. Sometimes, what we make surprises us. Sometimes, it’s like coming home. And sometimes, it is both.


This collage is part of a series of

hand-cut and multimedia explorations

by Kimberly Kuniko.

Find more by following the hashtag

#lacelitpaperlings on Instagram.

For happiness in your inbox each month,

Words, Art + Photography by

© Kimberly 國子Taylor-Pestell


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Welcome to the personal blog of of Kimberly Kuniko, a Nikkei American illustrator, collage artist, poet, and host of cozy, virtual guided creative retreats with a new theme each month.

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