There is something special about those clear blue-skied days that appear before the real onslaught of winter. They appear like an unexpected gift, the pleasure doubled as a result. Walking on the common yesterday, was one such unexpected present; walking through the woods, the sunlight bouncing off the water; children running and squealing, their parents chatting and it struck me how much pleasure we all get from these 'gifts' and how by living in the moment, as everyone seemed to be doing yesterday afternoon, we can really live in the present and appreciate it; because it was unexpected people had abandoned their usual routines, left the homework, the Sunday dishes, the phonecall to the parents, and even the ritual tidying of the garden had been put on hold. We were truly living in the moment and taking advantage of what it had to offer. My present was to feel the warm tendrils of sun; the sharp spike of the chestnut cases I held in my hand; the long shadows on the ground and the rare but cherished moment when a dragonfly alighted on my bent knee and I had a moment of pure and unadulterated happiness...
As I've been reflecting on the events of the last month or so I've become increasingly aware of a running theme - it's taken me a while to get the message but finally i have it! 'New Beginnings' are all around me - new terms, new lives, new experiences; there is new everywhere I look and new is what I'm getting whether I like it or not! I was musing on the idea of acceptance and how we can't control exactly what life throws at us, but we can control how we react to it and how we deal with it. That's now my challenge and one I hope I'm up to, after all, things in ruin are a gift, for from ruins rise transformations and whole new and different beginnings. This is now mine...So, to all those about to embark on new beginnings, Salut and Bon Voyage...!
This week has been a tumultuous ride of diving and soaring emotions. As I've tried to surf the ragged emotions of the week, often falling off into its frothing, shampoo, clawing my way desperately back to the surface again, I've been reflecting on how we hold onto sanity and a sense of normality when events tip us into an arena that is completely alien and wholly uninviting.
Friends/family and priorities is my conclusion. Without my friends I would not have had the daily propping up necessary to get through the imminent minutes/hours; without my family I would not have had the security of knowing that whatever life throws at me they will always be my safety net; and now my priorities have to change; as a close friend observed to me ' your only recourse now is to prioritise your children and at long-last yourself.'
I'm still not sure what that will mean, but it feels right, albeit strange, as I worry about being alone. However, I have also found huge comfort in an experience a year ago almost to the day; Holkham beach. I am swimming alone in the ocean. The sea is calm, the sky very blue, the air warm as I float on my back, completely cut off yet strangely connected too; the moon hangs from the vapoury trail of a lone flight, imprinted on the sky like a minim on a music score, and as I drift a white gull glides over and there is only me, the bird and the moon and peace.
This summer I went swimming This summer I might have drowned But I held my breath, I kicked my feet Moved my arms around I moved my arms around
This summer I swam in the ocean And I swam in a swimming pool Salt my wounds, chlorined my eyes I'm a self-destructive fool Self-destructive fool
This summer I did the back stroke And you know that that's not all I did the breast stroke, the butterfly And the old Australian crawl The old Australian crawl
This summer I swam in a public place And a reservoir to boot At the latter I was informal At the former I wore my suit I wore my swimming suit
Oh, this summer I did swan dives And jack-knives for you all And once when you weren't looking I did a cannon-ball I did a cannon-ball
This summer I went swimming This summer I might have drowned But I held my breath, I kicked my feet And moved my arms around I moved my arms around
As a child we often swam in the rivers in Northumberland - Chollerford, Barrasford. My memory replays picnics and soggy sandwiches that were dropped in the peaty water; laugher and dams; sunshine and if we were good, crisps at the pub on the way home. This swim was different, still with my sister, but also her children, one of my children and her husband. We drove up the valley, along the River Coquet, on a slightly overcast day that kept hinting at the promise of sunshine. Ever optomistic we took along our picnic and the ubiquitous flask of tea. Tiptoeing our way through sheep droppings and bracken we found our very own sheep-nibbled lawn edging the lazy river. Never one to hang back, Martha was first in, closely followed by her uncle and cousins. I couldn't resist much longer and went for the juggular, straight in, no acclimatisation. Breath-numbingly cold, gasping for air as I struck out...and then, calm as I looked up the valley, water at nose level, pied wagtails bobbing their tails at the waters edge, the deep waters licking at my limbs in the silkiest caress. The nearest to contentment for a long time; the closest to complete abandonment of worry. There is something about water and its healing properties; to wash away, to refresh, to cleanse and invigorate.
Today in the stress of moving class I remember a day quite recently when I hankered for some space and greenery and two hours later I found myself lying on the grass, under an old oak tree in the beautiful serenity of the Kent countryside. I could feel the heat on my legs as the sun burnt down and I watched the whispy fragile clouds drift on with no seeming purpose. A pair of swallows dipped and dived over me, my own personal acrobatic display, and over on the cricket pitch two young boys kicked a ball repeatedly against the old clubhouse. bang. bang. bang.
"All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well" said Julian of Norwich all those many centuries ago. I've been thinking of this recently and what it means. I personally take it to mean, that whatever is at the present moment, is exactly how it is meant to be at this moment in time. It could become a sort of mantra for the 21st century..all shall be well, all shall be well...
Bank holidays always feel to me like stolen days...as if the universe has given us some extra time and doesn't want paying back. If feels ok to lie later in bed, give the gym a miss, potter about in the kitchen and garden, chat to friends and reply to emails; it feels ok to read a chapter of my book whilst lying on my bed eating Minstrels (and it's 3 o'clock in the afternoon!)and to be planning a roast dinner followed by a long hot soak, with candles and face-pack, because before you know it tomorrow is here with its deadlines and do's and don'ts and today will be just another bar on the recharge battery of life.
"It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness."
"Let your life lightly dance on the edges of time like dew on the tip of a leaf. "
Strange, quiet day today... been for a swim, set up desk in bedroom so I can get some work done, although trying to make desk look less worklike to prevent stress setting in as I go to bed and see the computer winking at me in the darkness. Read an obituary today about Elspeth Thompson and realised she had killed herself which, although I didn't know her, made me feel inexplicably sad. Especially as I've just read her book 'The Wonderful Weekend Book' which has made me feel totally inspired. How could someone who suggests we make a 'Gratutude Journal' find herself so unable to find anything in her life that makes her feel grateful enough to stay alive. Depression is a destructive companion, full of trickery and malice. I found this poem on her blog - here it is as a reminder that life can be full of blessings, if you only look closely enough
TWENTY BLESSINGS adapted from the Celtic by Thomas A Clark
May the best hour of the day be yours. May luck go with you from hill to sea. May you stand against the prevailing wind. May no forest intimidate you. May you look out from your own eyes. May near and far attend you. May you bathe your face in the sun’s rays. May you have milk, cream, substance. May your actions be effective. May your thoughts be affective. May you will both the wild and the mild. May you sing the lark from the sky. May you place yourself in circumstance. May you be surrounded by goldfinches. May you pause among alders. May your desire be infinite. May what you touch be touched. May the company be less for your leaving. May you walk alone beneath the stars. May your embers still glow in the morning.
And another WILD GEESE BY MARY OLIVER
You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting — over and over announcing your place in the family of things.