Zen & the Arts - Field Notes

Nicola Bennett

Born in London, England, I was brought up in an artistic and unusual family. While my father and grandmother were writers, and my step-father a sculptor, my mother was perhaps the most creative person of them all and, as her children, my three brothers and I benefitted from her imagination, love, and lack of convention. Our elders were all active in pursuit of what, in family parlance, were called “real things,” by which they meant things beyond the real. For my psychic grandmother it was remembering past lives, for my father it was words and meditation, for my stepfather it was art and beauty, for my mother it was nature and creativity. Where did that leave me?

I had my own awakening in my teens when I started to go to art exhibitions on my own. After studying English and History of Art, my mission became to share my love of art with other people, an ambition I realised when I worked at the Arts Council of Great Britain planning exhibitions that toured galleries and museums in Britain. Then a visit to Scotland turned my life around as I met my husband and joined him to live on a tiny Hebridean island in an intentional community. Subsequently we moved down to England and lived in a Cotswold manor house with 7 other families and 16 organic acres. I put my skills to organising literary festivals in the cities of Cheltenham and Bath until the desire to write became so fierce that I left demanding employment to write short stories, a novel (unpublished) and some non-fiction.

In the meantime, unbeknownst to me, a woman in California decided to leave all her worldly possessions to my grandmother, whose books and teachings she passionately admired. By the time she died in 2007, my grandmother and mother were not alive, and I was left to inherit a little corner of wild beauty in Ojai.

Pieces by Nicola Bennett