In some ways I am already in Spring, because I am making new beds, preparing ground to plant stuff in next year. I realize the luxury of having soil to work with, and knowing that I will be working with this soil again next year. For life and for soil I am grateful most every day. And Autumn and I are good friends: Autumn puts shiny conkers in my pockets, lets me bite into crisp apples, sees me pile fallen leaves.
In a lot of ways I am squarely or roundly in the moment, able to really be with myself, more than I have ever managed before. I am inventing my life, moulding my plans, working with the differing pace of day following night following day, the dreams, the reflections. For the first time perhaps I almost always manage to feel, ah, this is what I am at today, and holding a few threads in my hands wonder which I will be pulling when I awake the next day.
Outside of shedding tears, sending out some of my love, keeping my symbolic fingers crossed, I still do not know what to do for the people who are leaving their homeplace, more and more every single day, risking everything in the name of life and hope. And those who do not make it (for them I believe in reincarnation). I too emigrated to be able to unfold my wings, but it was a choice, unlike a lot of my ancestors who, like the people I see rescued from hazardous embarcations, felt they had to flee. It is me. It is us. I am on some North-Western edge, often ashamed for what others do or fail to do and it’s not much use—but I see a lot of people who remember that we are all humans together and that too brings tears to my eyes.
what do do, make some noise at least, force people into action by signing this petition.
There is a variation on ‘Not All Men.’
It is called ‘I Feel Bad When You Say That.’
My godson Kyle is six. He is fairly emotionally perceptive for his age, as his grownups have been working with him to create an emotionally responsible and self-aware boy who we hope will grow into an emotionally responsible and self-aware man.
He knows at six that when you hurt someone, you go back right away and own, apologize, and do repair. For him that can mean if he hurts his friend while playing, he (ideally under his own initiative) is expected to promptly name what he did, apologize sincerely and lovingly, and ask his friend what he needs, or how he can help make things right between them: a hug, a high five, an offer to play. He is taught to listen to the needs and feelings of the other and act…
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You pick a day for making shelves for the end wall of the kitchen. You have bought the necessary timber and you have an enthusiastic youngster with you. There is plenty of sunlight pouring in from the window. It’s not long before you realize that this is the day that you will not manage to saw anything straight–you might only be a fraction of a millimetre off in some instances but the verticals are short so anything shows. The previous day was oddly enough the day that you were the planet’s most accurate precision sawer—so perhaps smugness has lodged itself somewhere awkward.
Once the youngster stops laughing at your performance they abandon a cut halfway realising their sawing may (unbelievably!) be potentially worse. You announce that you will keep going, get it done, either because you cannot be entirely sure that another day would necessarily bring the perfect performance you were aiming for, or you simply want those shelves built and your utensils out of boxes and off the floor. You relax into it, favouring amusement over annoyance, the other youngster joins in, and you end up with outrageous angles and even slight curves but you decide to leave them all in.
You promise yourself that you will—contrary to previously displayed type—manage to live happily with the result, choosing to find it charming. You will aim to love its handmade appearance—that you would instantly praise in someone else’s work—once a perfunctory smothering of white emulsion will have potentially blurred some embarrassing lines. You further conjure that gravity and measures dictated by common sense—a couple of wall brackets—will ensure the solidity of the piece.
You decide to accept that it would not be of use to measure up against some kind of “perfect” imagined version of yourself or your performance and that the universe may indeed support you in your live poetic attempts. Or more accurately that the universe will support you in supporting yourself.
We humans create our own reality as we filter everything through our consciousness, the stuff in our minds, often times the stuff someone else left there. Call yourself artist, writer or whatever you need to give yourself licence to make living a more determined act, your life a sculpture of what you encounter on your path.
I fill the radiator up with water, take out the list of scribbled town names and road numbers that make up the itinerary I concocted and this is one of few the road trips of the Summer which when I am done will have led me to the southern edge, the northeastern edge, the western edge, the eastern edge. A small car and a small island country.
I have become someone who enjoys taking the smallest and longest road and getting lost. I bring things to chew on as I drive, cheese, bread, carrots, and as I stop, a flask of hot water, a mug and tea bags (I was long ago taught by elderly neighbours to do it that way rather than aim to travel with sad made-up tea and a flask to wash later). I bring some made-up victuals for the friends I am visiting. I bring a camera but do not take any photographs, I do open my eyes, I trust that I can take it all in and bring it with me, in feelings and impressions.
I am not gone too long but when I come back—with gifts, hand-me-down-clothes, plants, fabric, books—poppies have invaded a bed, between the hyssop, the chives and the pimprenelle (Sanguisorba minor). The runner beans have weighed down their willow canes and collapsed gracefully and thankfully within my reach. Pretty much every decision about how to train the peas and beans was ill-judged this year. Instead of starting a hundred sentences with “I should have…” I proclaim : “This is something I never have to do again this way.”
My teenagers are away for a couple of weeks as I settle into the start of a glut of green things. I do enjoy being home sitting alone and chuffed, eating food I grew from bowls I have made.
Slow reincarnation, making book shelves with lengths of rough wood, harvesting seventy-one heads of garlic planted last October, drinking green or red tea. See where I got in those long years: a long road, I must have had a clear plan from the word go, and sometimes these days I allow myself a glimpse at it, 6B pencil in hand.
I have by now touched all the edges so that fear will probably never again be able to take hold of me or my life. My life that could, I’m sure, be described as a list of tragic failures has in fact succeeded in bringing me into complete peace with myself. What else could I have been striving for ? I am now ready for more chapters, endeavouring to sing and dance with the soil, with time to sit and read, and time to sit and write, and time to sit and listen. I am here and I won’t forget to breathe. Don’t either.