Friday, October 28, 2016

Today my heart sings for...

Horse Chestnut leaves carpeting Florence Park
... the mercurial moods of autumn: from the the bold, dazzling colours gleaming in the sun, through golden twilights to murky, mysterious misty mornings... pigeons cooing and moulting a hundred feathers... my dear Auntie Jo... the bite of wind that brings roses to my cheeks... Luke Sital-Singh serenading me... finding a peaceful path through complicated relationships... the ginkgo trees in the park... the smooth, golden bark of the eucalyptus... oh all the trees, always... chai tea... Halloween... my little spare room space... rose petals... baba ganoush... the smell of incense... a weekend filled with friends, Friends...

Friday, October 21, 2016

It's a tromance

English beech leaves close up

Eye in the bark of a beech trunk

Beech mast casing on branch
The beech are catching my eye right now. I'm taking my time with them. Sinking in and letting the feeling of my heart dancing bubble up. There are huge, gracious, glories in my local park and hanging out with them is a daily joy. The magic of watching them takes me deeper into love with my life. I noticed for the first time this spring how soft and vulnerable their concertina leaves are as they push out of the long, spindly buds. Reaching out for the light; sure of their purpose. While I'd revelled in that acid green of fresh beech woods I hadn't realised what tender pleats they start out in. Collected, fallen beech leaves were my one reference. Shiny, summer toughened, autumn browned and I assumed they popped out hard and ready for their work ahead.

In one breath I'm not quite sure how we've swept from those tender spring days to these so fast. In another I am just, so grateful, to be here. There were times when I thought the summer would never end.

I'm feeling so much better, reset; resolutions set for the year ahead like the buds forming on the showy beauties all around me. I'm with these deciduous trees casting the tired summer done leaves aside and readying myself, curious for whatever winter has in store.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Open the love-window

The lily needs some wild Darling


There is some kiss we want
with our whole lives,
the touch of Spirit on the body.

Seawater begs the pearl
to break its shell.

And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild Darling!

At night, I open the window
and ask the moon to come
and press its face against mine.
Breathe into me.

Close the language-door,
and open the love-window.

The moon won't use the door,
only the window.

                                         Rumi



Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Library Love

Books borrowed from Temple Cowley library
Just back from our three-weekly date night with a stack of new reads. Love the freedom in library picks, choosing on a whim, judging by covers, blurbs, mere fancy much more than when I am paying for a book. I find it easier to stop reading too if it doesn't catch my imagination. Back it can go and nothing lost.

Our little library visit has been a regular in the diary since my trip to the States last autumn. I visited two glorious libraries in Provincetown and Boston. Stunning buildings with huge collections that made you itch to just pull up a chair and stay all day. The previous summer I visited the most delightful gem of a members' library in Providence that seemed so perfectly formed it could have fallen from the pages of one of the novels it housed. They seemed to honour the beauty of the books that lived within them and like they would capture and create new bibliophiles second by second. I felt like our libraries paled into the background against these widely varied but equally glorious creations. Then I wondered if I wasn't just out of touch it had been so astonishingly long since I actually crossed the threshold of any of our public lending libraries.

So all inspired I renewed my local branch library visiting habits and it turns out it's still rather lovely in there despite the funding cuts. Other members of the public have not neglected it in the way I did. It's not in the league of any of the gems mentioned above but for a little area of a little city it's not too shabby. Though that is exactly what the public Central Library is. In fourteen years of living in this city I have been twice. The second time last autumn to see if my shock and dismay at my first visit in 2002 had really been justified. I think they were. It's a hideous building with a limited collection. Maybe our main library is designed to weed out the aesthetes, those who sort of like books but only if they can sit on a comfy chair and read one in natural light. Maybe it's to lending what Black Books is to retail. In a city famed for the universities libraries it's horribly out of keeping. A definite area where gown beats town!

There's something so nostalgic about library trips for me, so many things still feel the same. I basically lived in the Saltash lending library as a kid, was going to be a librarian, until I was going to be a lawyer which I researched in a book from their shelves. I loved summer reading challenges (those are still going strong). It was right next door to my primary school and for my whole childhood was a treasured visiting and meeting space. They had funny wire bucket chairs and it was a huge high, purpose built building with a roof that leaked into the atrium where the reference section was. Oh I should so go back for a visit next time I'm down that way. I still have a Cornwall lending ticket though I fear it may be defunct by now. I remember when we switched from our six little cardboard holders for the paper tickets to the barcoded card. These days we normally check our books out on the automated machine. Crazy! I do miss the stamped date though, nothing quite like the sound of the library stamp.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Summer of Not Much Love


The cove at Bank End Farm, Isle of Wight

Steephill Cove, Isle of Wight

Daisies

Queen Nina, Siamese Ruler

Simplicty, the best advice from the Angel Cards

Graffiti pavement bunny

Anchor Anna Maria Horner 'Sketchbook' tapestry

Castle Ring, Powys

Church Stretton from The Long Mynd

Soay Sheep at Castle Ring
Oh how I yearned for a long, languid summer. Dreamt of sinking in to a deep ease in my body and the days. We bookended the months with an early June and a late August holiday. Quiet, beautiful country times to enrich the experience. Lovely as those weeks have been (are being) this has not been the summer of my dreams and desires and therein as ever lies the crux of the hurt. Wanting my experience to be other than it is. I feel like I've written so many versions of this post over the past few years, there's frustration with that of course but also some understanding that this is the way it will be until I find a rhythm of acceptance and surrender. Underneath knowing that perhaps it will even always be this way, perhaps this is always going to be my brick wall, thumped into periodically as I spiral around my days and that is okay. It's not about how you fall, it's about how you pick yourself up.

I have been surrounded by love and beauty and yet closed off from it. Fixated on what feels like the rock bottom wish of 'I just want to be healthy'. That isn't the bottom though, as I discovered at the start of the year. It's that old friend 'earn your place' in disguise. Be healthy to have energy to do more to prove I am worth the space and resources on our spinning disco ball. That this is my default setting is just the hardest lesson for me to learn, the fear that puts on so many different sets of clothes and sneaks up on me time and again. Somehow even dotting and dabbling abandoned me by the end of June. Physically spent and emotionally just too vulnerable for all the angst and the tragedies in the wider world this summer I've basically put myself in a bunker. No social media, very consciously used and limited time online and stripped down social engagements to just try and find some place where I felt like I could breathe, where I felt a flicker of interest in and excitement about this wondrous world. Numbing out in front of the tv. Diving in to fluffy novels or stripped down detective fiction without any emotional pitfalls to fall in to. Wrapped up against the woes of the world, coping with our own domestic drama as we said farewell to the head of our house, Queen Nina, our dear old Siamese. I think it was something of a shock to us all that even she had to bend finally to the rules of nature.

Writing this from the end of the summer it feels like I've coaxed my way through the deepest levels of grue. My eyes are open again, my spirit communicative. I'm managing the sinusitis the best I can and have accepted that I can't find an elusive combination that will make it go away. What seemed like giving in now feels like acceptance that strips things back to the original hurt not the layers of story on top that end up being the hardest aspects to deal with. Feeling for what feels enriching within those limits, day by day, moment by moment. Going slowly. Reading a more varied diet again. Letting the Olympics shed a golden glow on the tv viewing. Picking up some simple, simple crafts: tapestry and mistake rib knitting. Accepting, accepting, accepting.

I'm not sorry to feel erratic days of heat and chill. To see ripening fruits and the earliest of turning leaves. Happy to be beginning to say a farewell to a not much loved summer and welcoming the change of seasons with open arms.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Humpty Dumpty

Practical advice on coping with chronic illness to stumble across when needed
Where all the king's horses and all the king's men would fail, when the bleak whisper of you're broken and you will never be well swirls these things will help:

Breathe. It will not always feel this hard. This too shall pass. Go on swear at me, slap my smug face. It's still true. I know it's the last thing that seems possible but batten down the hatches and just get through this storm by letting the breath connect you with your body. You're in this together.

Listen. Your body can tell you what will make it feel better, one step at a time. Believe it whatever your ego wants to tell you about what is 'healthy' or 'best' or 'right'. You don't do healing, you allow it.

Sleep. Yes, you can go back to bed after you just got up. Yes, you can have as many naps a day as you need. You will not always need this much sleep, it is not a bottomless pit, you can fill it up.

Water. Drink it, bathe in it, sit by it.

Friends. If you can't get to them, email them, phone them, reach out and let them talk to you. Let them listen to you ramble your way back to sense. Laugh and cry with them. They want to show you how much they love you. Receive.

Trees. They're your friends too. If you can't get out of bed yet go to the woods in your mind. Get close to them as soon as you can.

Breathe. Keep coming back to deep belly breaths. Ground in your body and feel your way. There are no rules. There is no right way to do anything. Let your body guide you. It's not about what you do or don't do it's about how you do or don't do it.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dotting and dabbling

Dawn chorus bird walk from the Earth Trust with Ben Carpenter

Bluebell woods at Aston Rowant Nature Reserve

May oak tree canopy at Nettlebed
What am I doing here?

It's a question more for life than this blog, though the layer of dust I just swept aside makes me note the relevance here too! It's a question that has got undue airtime so far this year. I think it came to the fore when I decided I was healthy, over the ME and then rather than revelling in the luxury of feeling healthy I somehow jumped to the story that I'd better get my ass in to gear and do something to demonstrate my spectacular awesomeness to the world.

Is it a coincidence that I've had one niggly illness after another since the end of January? I've felt like crap and all the while loaded more hurt and stress upon by body as I battled the fear that the chronic fatigue is not behind me. It's a sad fact that not recovering well from a cold and then finding yourself locked in the joy that this is chronic sinusitis replicates a hell of a lot of the symptoms and worse: the feelings - the doubts - the questions about what is the 'best' thing to do, what is the 'right' thing to do.

This little ship o'mine rights itself a little more quickly these days. Bailing those toxic, unanswerables out when I get the perspective to observe them.  It all drags though. Takes energy. To find the acceptance of where I am today, to draw back in the spiralling thoughts and let the focus come to the next thing. Then when a flicker of energy arises feeling so bored with plodding through the familiar furrows, till the energy is spent in wondering what am I doing here?

Oh cycle of doom! I seek release from you in letting go of that silly question, remembering beautiful words from Rumi. Stopping and watching nature unleash majesty all around me, finding the space for wonder instead of brick walls. Dotting and dabbling, a bit of this and a bit of that doesn't make a cohesive narrative in the moment but one day I'll look back and join the dots, or swim deep in a pool that I found by dipping in my toe.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Today I love...

Blossom, blue skies and bees

It's been a sticky sort of a week - aches, fears and frustrations swirling and if you'd asked me what I loved on Monday or Tuesday I might have struggled to find an answer. So the first thing I love today is that I feel fondly enough about life to make a list of loves!

I'm also loving - warm sun paired with cool April breezes, birds in flight, my new stack of library books calling out to me to be read, making lunch plans with friends, yoga, vanilla rooibos tea, feeling visible, my four colour biro, being at the start of a season, knowing that it is a full moon tomorrow, jacket potatoes planned for tea, soft cat noses, blossom, blossom and blossom, Artweeks soon, online shopping, the thought of tucking in to bed tonight.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

24 hours of Glastonbury

Walking up Glastonbury Tor 9th April 2016

Tree with offering ribbon at Glastonbury Tor

Journalling and researching St Michael

A week on from an overnight blast of Glastonbury I'm just starting to feel into where that magic place has created some new spaces to explore. My favourite time was spent with the Tor. It's a wonderful way marker of health, of vitality, of a trust in my body that for so many years evaded me. It's also right on the St Michael leyline and if my psychic reading is to be believed he's a spirit guide of mine.

I'm in two minds as to whether that last sentence needs an exclamation mark or not. Having a psychic reading was my "gently stepping over boundaries/living the willingness to be open to new experiences/exploring my magic" part of this fun trip. Before the reading it definitely would have had an exclamation mark; after, it feels out of place. It was such a gentle, straightforward experience. Much as I know better, I guess there's still a lot of Hollywood, Madame Zelda type associations in my mind when the word psychic arises. The lack of gold hoop earrings and tall, dark strangers was pleasingly compensated for by some very sane advice. Lots of gentle, practical things to explore - most of which centre around finding a real sense of peace and home within my body. This makes such deep sense to me. Years of chronic illness burn through any easy relationship between mind, body and spirit. I'm slowly rebuilding and letting magic be a part of that feels very important.

There was a moment when Sabrina and I were chatting where I wondered whether I should be telling her so much, as if I wanted to test what she could pick up from my soul without my conscious participation. That is such an illustration of this wrestling within me - the need to see it to believe it versus the deep longing for more than the surface. I take so much of 'science' on trust that, as with the moment when I committed to being open to allow her the best insight in to 'me' as a whole, I am committed to having some faith in the unseen, the mystery, the Divine.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Letting go of what and where and when..

Overwintered pelargonium as a metaphor for making it through the winter
...and how and why and probably who.

I'm a curious orange and spend so much time in my head with the serving men as the mighty Kipling called them in The Elephants's Child:

 I Keep six honest serving-men:
       (They taught me all I knew)
     Their names are What and Where and When
       And How and Why and Who.
     I send them over land and sea,
       I send them east and west;
     But after they have worked for me,
       I give them all a rest.

It's the last bit that trips me up, I spend so much time working them that I often forget to give them a rest. I have that poem on my pinboard at work, as a researcher it pleases me greatly to come back to those questions when I've been sidetracked off in to a blind alley. As a human Being I often try and use them to stop me getting in to blind alley, even though I know that getting somewhere you don't ultimately want to be can actually bring the greatest learning. I spend time trying to think my way through instead of moving my way through.

I am deliberately underscheduled for a week of leave from work, I have carefully chosen the few engagements for the week and actively cultivated hours of white space to try and tune in to my intuition, my body's wisdom and to play. To try and give that overwrought mind a rest and find some space within. From the bustle of the weeks leading up to this, dragging through the end of winter, picking up a stinking cold to weigh me down further, the thought of lots of nothing felt like the most wonderful mirage. All of the week and weekend before I could see myself step one side of the exhaustion line or the other - either facing down a spiral of despair that leads to me, unwashed on the sofa with only the internet and cats for company. (Maybe not even the cats or the internet when all money has dried up). (Wait, no sofa or house either come to think of it). Or Happy Moments when the promise of the Week of Sarah had me climbing up the spiral into the blossom cushioned blue sky.

On Monday when I was on my own all I wanted to do was sleep and I felt very in the despair and convinced that a mere week would never be enough. From that place of deep weariness I found it so hard to let go and sink in to sleep, even though I logically knew that it's the greatest healer, even though my body was crying out for it, Even Though I Had Nothing Else I Had to Do - the serving men were jumping all over the place measuring what was happening up against my hopes and expectations. My mind was so busy with what I should be doing, how the week could be maximised to bring the greatest rewards to my health and happiness. I watched my poor brain get knottier and my spirit sink lower as the inner toddler got more and more overtired and overwhelmed. Sleep by now having fled the crazy I did what I have gradually learned to do and kept on offering soothing solutions from my bag of tricks and eventually managed to calm the scared little down enough to nap and bathe and take a restorative yoga class. A good night's sleep saw me open Tuesday out feeling no more physically sparky but just enough this side of overtired to feel much more peaceful about the rest. To feel that change of perspective is the best evidence to my mind that the catastrophising of the day before was just a hysterical story and many weeks of doing absolutely nothing would not actually be required to make me feel half human again.

So it goes, round and round, the same challenges but each spiral around I am a little different and can play with the story to find new pathways. It's not been a smooth linear progression this week but the sparkle is definitely coming back. I feel I am very much like my little overwintered pelargonium pictured above, I've lost a lot of leaves and am a touch dishevelled round the edges but from this place today I can feel that my roots are in place and the new leaves are coming.

Monday, February 29, 2016

February 29th

Crow flying in the blue sky of February 29th
Just geeking out about the extra day. Remembering where I was four years ago, so bitter that the extra day was a work day. So grateful that is not my feeling today. So grateful for the bright, blue sky and sunshine and the crazy birdsong extravaganza going on out there today.

Love this quirky little fellow of a day. The Google Doodle today has a little bunny for 29 leaping in, easing into a spot he makes for himself between 28 and 1 and snuggling down. Very pleasing to me. There's something so quaint and anachronistic about our calendar, I see something rebellious about today. The fact that our orbit doesn't fit nicely in to the box of days we offer it and so we have to make it work a bit better, make it room with an extra day every four years. I like that.

I guess I identify with that. I feel like the extra bunny a lot of the time. Trying to find my space. I watched X+Y at the weekend and sort of loved it and sort of hated it. The ending? Anyway it left me sobbing, wretched for Luke who was holding it all together when he was weird and gifted but doesn't know what to do with himself in the world when the gifted label is taken away. He doesn't know how to make himself the right shape. I wish we were allowed to be odder. I don't like how much energy I give to trying to be the right shape. I am trying to love my awkward. I honour it today.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Quiet

This week has been the shadow of the light of last week. Squashed by a stomach bug less than 24 hours after I typed the last post. I might have been relishing all the colour of my life but then you find another perspective and it's been a black and white fortnight. In the grey I have found self care and compassion that validated all I wrote. I said thank you for the opportunity to reinforce my progress. I laughed. Also I cried and felt flat and sorry for myself. Yet always out of the harder bits of life come the biggest lessons and I tried to welcome that. I saw how afraid I am of doing nothing. I think I have cultivated time for stillness. Another perspective could be that I have created safe little pockets to dip into. I write this to help me remember when I am in the swirl of busy and exciting bemoaning the lack of peace and quiet: I create the swirl to avoid the quiet. That the quiet scares me because of what I might hear. I promise to try and listen.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A January week


Let us imagine care of the soul, then, as an application of poetics to everyday life. Care of the Soul - Thomas Moore
A regular week and an irregularly momentous one. Play and work. Work and play. Plenty of rest. Full in the flow of the remarkable and unremarkable. My basic routine has space for quiet ritual, for time in nature, for movement and stillness and space to do what my heart calls for in the most playful of ways. The simple everyday is so very good for me now, care fully curated, and I reap the rewards of that in health and energy even in this fallow time.

More particularly there have been delicious moments of note. The weekend brought time with friends, talking about the things that really matter and just being together - that amazing gift of time with people who really see you. This Tuesday I had one of my fortnightly coaching calls with Jen, we're just sprinkling magic on the mundane, recognising the sacred or as the oh-so-eloquent Mr Moore would put it applying poetics to everyday life. On Wednesdays I work from home for half the day, bringing me a little respite from the hurly burly that feels like a balm that should be prescribed for every introverted office worker! I had time in the afternoon to break ice on bird waters and sprinkle food on the hard ground, enjoying the sparkle of frost dusting the garden still. Yoga last night left me physically spent but feeling like I'd opened more than just my joints and the revelation that is being physically emptied, then restored by a good night's sleep is a feeling that will never get old for me. Today has brought playful time alone, an adventure poking around a library and a discharge from my ME/CFS talking therapy - part CBT, part mindfulness coaching - all kinds of 'finally well done the NHS' awesome. So kids, I've done it, closed the healing circle and I have sufficient confidence in my conscious recovery to say I'm staying the right side of healthy. Today, from that side of the fence, I can say without doubt it has been a privilege to walk this path, to be brought so low physically that I had no choice but to wake the fuck up to my life. I'm living in full colour now and that feels really rather good.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Gifts of Imperfection

Winter and candlelight. Tea and biscuits. Sarah and her slippers. Things that are delicious together. Just like Brene and Oprah and art journalling and The Gifts of Imperfection.

I signed up for the on demand course last October and I was starting to wonder if it wasn't a little like my exploration of The Artist's Way. Bought in 2010 after it was recommended on a course the book has been in a drawer ever since, just waiting for the day.

 I tried to find my deeper way of engaging with TGIF in the spring but that didn't stick so this sounded like a perfect way to really play with the concepts that were so helpful to me last year. I gathered my supplies and then just couldn't find that overlap of time, inclination and a dash of bravery to begin. Despite Julia Cameron lurking in the drawer I just trusted that the conditions would be right, soon, however long that took. And hey presto the window of opportunity opened last weekend. I'm so enjoying playing with the exercises for lesson one. I'm typing this with Sharpie on my hand and joy in my heart because I am imperfect and I am enough. I might even start The Artist's Way once my Gifts are fully unwrapped!

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Instinctive embroidery

Inspiration from Rebecca Ringquist's Embroidery Workshops book

Doodled embroidery - flowers and vines - French knots and stem stitch and back stitch

French knot allium

This embroidery is growing like weeds! I have found so much inspiration from the wonderful Embroidery Workshops book. Along with the book my Ma had gifted me this flowery fat quarter, three exquisite skeins of thread and notions. When I opened it on Christmas Day I had everything to hand but I wasn't quite sure what to start as I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it. So when I read the advice from the final chapter to "..please remember: Along the road of making things, it can be freeing not to worry too much about the end result." it was exactly the permission I needed. It freed my simple brain from the old trap of trying to get to the end before I've even started. 

I'm still not sure how I'll use or display this work but it has given me such enormous pleasure this month to just doodle on these flowers, simply stitching what I feel like stitching. With the gentle pull of the thread, I can get in to that peacefully present place, beyond the dictats of my antsy mind, just letting the piece unfold.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Now that's over, it's time for the real business of the season

Siamese cuddles
These holidays with their sparkle and bustle are quite the distraction. In years past I used to associate this time with the pinnacle of winter, as if  I were saying "shortest day done, mince pies eaten, new year rung in, righty ho lets have at this spring business then". January and February dragging on drearily with the dark and cold were quite the anticlimax and time for restless blues. Then we had a proper snowfall one January and I had to actually slow down to something like the right pace for me, it was a revelation, January and I could actually be friends. Now these approaching quiet months seem like so much more the point to me and my traditional mid-December funk at being caught up in doing too much makes perfect sense.

This is my big rest time, a natural lull in the cycle of the year. I think I must have been a hedgehog in a former life. The idea of lining my house with leaves in autumn, battening down the hatches,  emerging blinking somewhere towards the end of February is a little too appealing. Given physiological and economic constraints I'm prepared to settle for hunkering down and embracing some hygge. All of which is beautifully in tune with the restful moments theme for this month in Sas' lovely new project #mymindfulyear.

Social engagements are welcome but slippers will ideally feature. You might talk me into swapping them for some boots and a bracing stroll to keep the daylight quotient up but, mostly I feel, I will only be truly happy when found sewing, knitting or reading in soft glowing light. The cats are on board so long as I keep the noise down. I've got some provisions in; Christmas can be an excellent source of resources with sufficient hints. The pile of reading material is substantial and  Rebecca Ringquist's glorious embroidery book has reinvigorated my desire for pretty stitchy time. I got a hit of knitting inspiration in December when I found some bright, soft yarn in a stash shifting manoeuvre. A Christmas gift scarf was born and I'm contemplating a lightweight version for myself. Let the cosy times roll!
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