Slow Diaries by Clare Yazbeck

 Photo: Clare Yazbeck

Photo: Clare Yazbeck

When slow living habits became part of my daily life, I started looking for bloggers and some inspiration and one day I found a beautiful blog by Clare. Mindfulness is something I have to remind myself about as often as possible, I love reading and browsing through beautiful photography and particularly if it is about Ireland and the seaside. I avoid too much information in everyday life and the Slow Diaries by Clare is something I return to, just like a good book which you want to re-read. We had a small conversation and talked about her journey in slow living, inspiration and the sea views of Ireland. You can find more information about Clare and her blog below.

On Slow Living Journey

I began my journey towards living more slowly and mindfully a few years ago. I had unwittingly found myself working in a demanding corporate job and living a hurried city life. I was feeling, like so many of us, overloaded with information, obligations and battles for my attention. I believed there was something more and even though I didn’t quite know what or where that was, I began walking towards it.

Initially, weekends were my opportunity to slow down, prioritise the people and things I loved most, and to reflect on the issues that were meaningful to me. I wanted to quieten the noise and rediscover beauty and wonder in the everyday. I began writing and taking photographs on my blog and Instagram to explore ideas around slow living, food, travel and connection. 

I sought out likeminded people and others who I saw were leading the way and learned from them. I also began to profile on my blog some of the people I encountered whose stories resonated with me and I wanted to celebrate. As I learned more about the choices that individuals and businesses were making to create, live and consume more consciously, I became more mindful myself.

Over time, I went down to four days a week at my corporate job to allow more space for my writing and photography. Eventually however, the two worlds became incompatible and I knew I needed to make some bigger changes.

To make space for what I wanted, I needed to be clear about what I didn’t want – to say no to some things that no longer served me so that I could say yes to what felt right for me at that stage. I don’t technically have any more time in the day than the next person but I realised I could empower myself to make choices about how to spend my time. When I was honest with myself, I knew that sticking with the status quo was still a choice. I decided to leave my job and take a year out to see what might happen.

For me, slow living has been about being conscious of what is important to me and why, and then simplifying my life to make space for those values and priorities. I was first introduced to the idea through the slow food movement but pretty quickly I came to see it could be a lifestyle that encompassed much more.

At this stage in my life, I value a sense of spaciousness with how I spend my time and energy, and investing in my connection to nature and the people I care about. While the move to Ireland has meant that I no longer have my family and friends from Australia close by, or the buzz and conveniences of city life, I am rich in the things that I value. I focus on embracing what I do have and making a life around what is most meaningful to me. It reminds me that living is a creative act that is constantly evolving and responding, as Mary Catherine Bateson explored in her book Composing a Life.

On Details and Mindfulness

Slowing down to focus on what is most important to me has created a greater sense of presence. When I was hurried, I had to be blinkered and I missed a lot. Our attention is more influential to how we experience our lives than we often realise and it can be hijacked so easily by things like messages, news and social media.

I’m still learning how to set boundaries with these distractions but I know that immersing myself in nature makes me feel grounded, present and open. It renews my sense of wonder and appreciation of the beauty of the natural world.

It’s a benefit of living in the country that I’m surrounded by nature, but I still need to be deliberate about getting out into it, especially when the weather here in the west of Ireland can be uninviting and unpredictable. When I lived in the city, I went hiking and made day trips to the country or the coast, and sometimes I just went to the park and lay under a tree.

My creative practices also encourage attention and observation by prompting me to tune into what is going on in my life and around me.

The daily practice of writing makes space for reflection about my experiences, relationships and the questions I’m exploring at that time. Slow diaries began as a journal in this way, and has shown me how writing about my particular perspective helps me understand our shared experiences.

Photography makes me attentive to light, colour, the beauty of ordinary things, and the call of visual stories waiting to be told. I enjoy exploring how written and visual storytelling can be complementary.

Our vegetable garden, along with the wild foods and flowers around us, bring me into the present. We eat seasonally and locally as much as possible, so this compels me to notice and enjoy what is in season before letting go to make way for what comes next.

Poetry is also a source of inspiration for me. It elevates the ordinary and transports me into the world of the imagination and beauty. One of my favourite poets, Marie Howe has described great poetry as holding the mystery of being alive, and I agree. I think music does that too.

On the Sea

I grew up by the Pacific Ocean in Australia and now live on the Atlantic coast of Ireland, which is very different.

When I come up over the hill and look out over the bay where I live, it’s always a surprise. The light and weather change here often so I never know what I’ll find. It’s a daily reminder of where I am in the world and the seasons.

As much as I love the peacefulness of the ocean on a calm day, what I love most about the west coast of Ireland is the drama – from the waves crashing against the rocks to the sand dunes’ grasses waving in the wind whipping off the water, and sunlight flaring between the clouds and across the cliffs and limestone hills. Seamus Heaney expresses it beautifully in his poem Postscript:

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open

Bio

Clare is an Australian writer and photographer living on the west coast of Ireland. In 2017 she left her corporate job and city life to travel and explore creative projects. She ended up falling in love with Ireland, and then an Irishman. Clare married and moved back to Ireland in 2018 and now calls a cottage by the sea her home. She lives a simple but full life – in between working from home, you’ll find her growing vegetables, foraging, cooking and preserving, volunteering at her local community supported agriculture scheme (CSA), attending traditional music sessions the area is famous for, and hiking in the magical landscape of the coast and limestone hills. She writes about her experiences of slow living and the creative people she meets at www.slow-diaries.com and @slowdiaries

Photos by Clare Yazbeck.

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