Ah the rhythm of life, is a powerful beat,

Spring blooms.I could call it hibernation. Or I could call it lying fallow.  But I won’t come at sterile. Sterile suggests permanence and that is unacceptable.  Maybe hibernation? Lying fallow? Perhaps dormant would be better? It is after all just passed the Spring Equinox here down South and Spring is all about new life, regrowth, renewal and waking up. Not that we have much Spring bursting forth, our winter doesn’t get cold enough. (Wish it did!)  However, having said that, today and yesterday it’s been cold and rainy. Very cold and rainy, sometimes windy.

Spring?

Spring?

Two years ago, this time, we had heatwaves and a raging out-of-control bushfire down the road. People were evacuated onto the local beach. A friend’s adored dog was staying in a dog resort (kennel, but he doesn’t much like the term!) near the fires. The owner refused to evacuate because of his responsibility to the animals in his care. All were safe, but Ollie came home with kennel cough and security issues.  I’d  been told always how gentle Ollie was, a gentle giant, the family baby. Imagine when I visited having not yet met Ollie, and a huge Doberman leapt across the room, barking (VERY loudly),  stopping about one centimetre (mouth open HUGE teeth) from my hand. I kept remarkably still considering the circumstances, although, considering the circumstances stillness was perhaps the only option. Didn’t step any further for several minutes, lunch postponed.  Kennel cough? Security issues?  Or simply a dog with a mean streak?

Back to the lying dormant/ in hibernation/ Springtime and the rhythm of life… Sometimes,  it just doesn’t happen. No matter how much I remind myself of my values and my priorities. No matter how much re-focussing and positive visualisation I practise. No matter how much I beat myself up or promise myself treats or try sensory deprivation or… just no chocolate, it doesn’t happen.

10850249_868432186523021_613794867650258050_n[1]Creativity, or let’s say my creativity disappeared for a while here. There are reasons. And there are many excuses. And sometimes/often life gets in the way. And maybe I’m not committed enough or…  I don’t know. If I knew, then it wouldn’t happen, would it?

I’ll give you an example of my life here in this quiet little town. I’ve just returned from walking out to the kitchen to pour the cup of tea I’d made a few sentences back. Sitting on the back of the chair , gazing into the kitchen, singing his little heart out, was one of the butcher birds.  Feathers all wet, rain coming down, how could I not take the time to feed him? The resident magpie, currently feeding babies, zoomed in. More feeding. By now the tea’s cold and the writing? well, who knows!  I could go out and check the mail but the neighbourhood cats who are constantly hungry will mill about. Do you know how difficult it is not to feed begging animals? Or am I easily distracted?

A begging and hungry cat.

A begging and hungry cat.

Back to the rhythm of life which at heart is my excuse for a long silence. I don’t understand it. The more I try to control it the more unsuccessful I am. It’s all a mystery.

However, the new roses sprout more leaves every day. I picked the first sugar snap peas yesterday. The rocket is seeding in the lawn as well as the gardens.  The kitchen table has vases of poppies and sweet peas.

I’ve been asking myself what I would want to do most if I knew I had a limited time left for living.

Making gardens, being with the people I love… Simple things, sitting at the beach, floating on the water, watching for whales…  what really matters? What haven’t I done?

What really matters for you?

,aslow

 

The best laid plans of mice and men…

Six children sitting around my kitchen table colouring in. How did this happen?

Six children, busy and happy.

Six children, busy and happy.

I’m on a break from full-time work.I haven’t written anything for weeks. I have hundreds of unread emails.  My friends are being neglected. There’s gardening to be done, boxes to be sorted and emptied, an entire house waiting to be painted, my “to do”  list is endless… and six children colouring in. Yes, I’m babysitting one of them, but six! In my living room? How did this happen?

The day began with no commitments. Hours stretched before me, waiting to be filled. My co-houser would be away for several hours. Space.  Solitude. Quiet.  I could sit, I could write, I could ponder and dream, let my thoughts meander.

Knock on the door:

Could I babysit for a couple of hours?

Of course, after all one of my priorities is creating community, building networks and providing support. I am committed to putting the ideal into practice. As my father would say “putting my money where my mouth is.” I’m good at the mouth bit. So, babysit? One child? Couple of hours? Sure. No problem.

However, it is school holidays and there are other children who live close. One child became three, became four… five… six. A mention of colouring in to the youngest and soon all six had joined in. I mentioned find-a words, mental arithmetic exercises, spelling … as long as I provided sheets, they would  do them.

These children wanted school! They were bored, they had nothing to do,their mothers were either at work, or recovering from late shifts. This little gang were wandering around the street, looking for entertainment or something to occupy them and an adult to supervise. I sympathise and remember my own childhood with much gratitude.

I grew up in a village. Our house was on a hill sloping steeply down to a river. Other houses were scattered between paddocks. I climbed trees, built cubbies, fished in one of the creeks and wandered about. There was a house with space under it’s verandah post where we left pieces of moss and flowers for the fairies. And I read books, any book I could lay my hands on. I had a favourite spot in the pepper tree where I could lie back and read- soft breeze, birds, the smell of the pepper tree and endless time. Adults were not part of it. No one supervised us. We never complained of being bored.

184There were jobs. I had younger brothers and a sister to keep an eye on; there was  washing up and clothes to be hung out and brought in, chooks, ducks and geese to be fed, sometimes a cow and a calf,  but in my memory it’s one long sunny day that went on forever.

These children in my street have nothing like I had. There are paddocks to roam in and trees they can climb, but they aren’t  accessible. Most are in someone’s backyard and children aren’t welcome. Ride your bike up and down? Gets boring after a while. Read a book???  Reading is becoming a lost art and the little one can’t read.

I send my co-houser to the shops as soon as she drives in – bread rolls and sausages, let’s feed the mob.

My neighbour returns home and I feed her. The children leave, reluctantly and slowly. I feel torn. I would like to continue to entertain them, but I don’t have endless time to give them. We’ve gardened earlier, searched for grubs and I have things I must do.

kindnessThe day ends. I haven’t crossed much off my list. I had no time to sit and dream but I have given. I have chosen to give my time, my attention and my compassion.  Perhaps this counts for more than time for myself. Perhaps I am learning about priorities of lasting value. And perhaps this is an opportunity to practise acceptance, acceptance of what is.

 

 

Thank you Oliver Sacks.

I’ve just read the article published in the New York Times on the 19th of February where  Oliver Sacks announced that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.       (My Own Life.)  It’s a beautiful piece of writing- moving and provocative, hopeful and inspiring. But then, hasn’t Oliver Sacks always been challenging, moving, inspirational?

Oliver Sacks, Professor of Neurology at New York University.

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks

I first heard of Oliver Sacks when “The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat” was published- an account of his work as a neurologist with patients living with difficult and rare conditions,  such as Tourette’s Syndrome, Autism and Parkinsonism.  Amazing stories about the resilience, courage and resourcefulness of these people, examples of our capacity to change and adapt. I knew little about such conditions, so this book was eye-opening.

“Awakenings” is probably his other most well known work. It’s an account of his work with a group of patients suffering sleeping sickness, years after there had been a pandemic of the disease. He was able to wake them, briefly. A sad and amazing story- later made into a movie starring Robert de Niro and Robin Williams.

His article begins

“A month ago I felt that I was in good, even robust, health. At 81, I still swim 1.6 kilometres a day. But my luck has run out….now I am face to face with dying”.

He continues

“It is up to me to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can….”

I could take that statement as the way I want to live my whole life.

And…

“Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life.

On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.

This will involve audacity, clarity and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well)…..

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have given much and I have been given something in return;…

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

IMG_0327Please, I beg you to read the article. Like me, you will be moved, challenged and inspired. What I would say if I received this diagnosis? What would I want for the time remaining me? How would I feel? How would I sum up my life?

How would you sum up your life? What would you want for the time remaining to you?

What better than to be able to say

“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have given much and I have been given something in return…above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking anima, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

Blocked

?????

?????

I feel overwhelmed. Stuck. Blocked. Frustrated. Can’t move forward. Can’t move back. Can’t move sideways. Haven’t been writing, haven’t been to the gym, the “to do” list just keeps on getting longer.

Know that feeling?

I live in a spacious house. All by myself. Large rooms- back deck and front porch; wide, long room downstairs; gracious loungeroom and a huge, sunny family room + kitchen. When my co-housing partner lives here, there will be the grand total of two of us

scary, isn't it?

scary, isn’t it?

But. I can’t settle my work space. Right now I’m camped in the dining room (yes, there’s a dining room as well) – computers set up on the dining table, papers strewn everywhere, books stacked…Angie, my co-housemate suggests the second bedroom is my space and some stuff is in there-  left over clothes of mine that don’t fit in my bedroom, a largeish table, full boxes and plastic crates, all my paperwork, stationery…Downstairs is stuffed with furniture- a desk, a workbench, cupboards, bookshelves, books and books and books, filing cabinets, plastic crates full of stuff belonging to both of us, all my parents’ family photos waiting to be sorted, my notes from courses I have run, old letters (of course!), boxes of Angie’s…all waiting to be sorted. There’s no garage, so downstairs is where it’s all at. My stuff, and it is stuff, is scattered in three places. No wonder I keep losing things.

Where do I settle my study? upstairs? second bedroom? downstairs? the dining room? turn the loungeroom into a work space? Where do we put guests?

questions,

questions,

I haven’t mentioned the garden. You remember the garden? One of our aims is to be as self sufficient as possible, so the garden is a top priority. Well, here I am, eighteen months later, and I’ve only been playing around the edges. Where will I create the beds? How will I make them? Where do I start? Treated pine edging or colorbond or?  If I put a tree there, will it stop the sun?  Questions, uncertainty, indecision… and I’m back where I started from, feeling stuck.

By now, you’re probably feeling irritated with me and want to tell me to “stop carrying on , just get on with it!” I’m irritated with me!

However. And there is usually an however. I have watched people talking about how they feel blocked and I have seen that they have solutions. I’ve watched them reject any options or possibilities. For some reason they didn’t want to move forward.

What does this tell me now? That I am refusing solutions? Choosing to stay stuck? Why do I keep rejecting any possible solutions?  What am I frightened of?

This is a life lesson, of course. It’s not just in our homes or gardens we get stuck. How many times have you been at a point where you have felt powerless, you can’t make a choice and  your life’s been  in a holding pattern?

And isn’t it an uncomfortable place to be? No energy, restless, I take to prowling about, unable to settle anywhere. Nothing gets done.

What was I told once? It doesn’t matter where you start, you’ll always get to where you need. Here and now, it doesn’t matter what choice I make. All that matters is to start. It’s my old friend, fear- the fear of making a mistake. What did I learn, many years ago, from Susan Jeffers? To “feel the fear, and do it anyway”. What do I have to lose?

a Spring bouquet to cheer me up.

a Spring bouquet to cheer me up.

P.S. If you have an idea about the garden or the house, I’d love to hear it. Think outside the square!

 

 

 

 

An Ordinary Day

Well, maybe not so ordinary. I’ve just spent almost three weeks relieving in a local school library, and when I work all my routines go out the window. All I do is go to work, come home and get ready for the next day. So now I’ve finished that block I’m focused on writing, publishing some posts, exercising, practicing mindfulness… AND tidying, cleaning, vacuuming, gardening… catching up on long overdue paperwork….

You get the idea. I had breakfast sitting in the sun on the front verandah, making lists, with all my different colured textas and pens. Arrows, asterisks, underlinings, highlightings….What would be the best use of my time? How can I make sure I get the most important things done? What are the priorities?

Eventually I decide that I’ll feel best if my home is clean and tidy; chaos is unsettling and clean floors are a pleasure. Somehow, deciding this gives me permission to just get on and stop worrying about wasting time.

the calm of clouds in a blue sky.

the calm of clouds in a blue sky.

It’s a beautiful day. Sunny, warm, still, blue; small clouds decorate the sky. This town is set in a ring of hills, but not buried in a valley. It has the best skyscapes and since I’ve been here I keep driving out of town to take sky photos.

There’s washing on the line. I’ve finally planted the struggling peppermint geranium cutting –  it may still survive. It’s been sitting in water on the window sill for?? weeks? months? and I’ve kept promising myself that I’ll plant it today, but then, there’s always those priorities… But now, it’s planted!

the pleasure of washing, drying in the sun.

the pleasure of washing, drying in the sun.

I’ve sprayed the aphids on the roses with soapy water. And I’ve sat in the sun drinking cups of tea, chatting with my neighbours. I confess, I’ve also spent some time gazing at the sky, watching birds, checking out the way the gum looks against the blue of the sky… in other words, daydreaming and simply being glad I’m alive.

The vacuuming isn’t done, nor is the house tidy but I feel relaxed and happy. Of course the question still remains: how do I manage to do what needs to be done and also those things that are the most important?  I read other writers who juggle the demands of caring for a child while earning a living as full-time writers. I am in awe of their discipline. I’ve recently read a TED blog about a woman who was bed-ridden with chronic pain and chose to work as a TED translator during that time. There are plenty of role models of people who achieve in spite of the odds.

A pretty end to a pretty day.

A pretty end to a pretty day.

But today, I will revel in my freedom.