..except that it's only 371 days till next Christmas!
The damp chilly greenhouse may have been Covid-safe, but I now have a horrible cold.
There are times when it's wise just to give in and retire to bed.
Take care (especially if eating outside!)
...upon a star, makes no difference who you are. Or so the old song goes. Everything your heart desires will come to you.
I listened to twelve versions of the song and I couldn't find one I liked enough to share. Now I wish I could get it out of my head! I have been humming it, singing it and whistling it for days.
So, I will go for the real thing. You know how I like the real thing. I am watching the weather waiting for the first starry night, when I will wrap up warm and sit on the porch with a drink and choose which wondrous star to wish on.
But the wish of course, must be secret, or it won't come true..
As you know I acsolutely adore the smell of quince. I got to wondering why I had such a visceral response to this scent and sat thinking about it this warm morning recently, when the air was full of the delicious perfume.
I picked up a fruit, put it to my nose and inhaled deeply and it came to me - it smells like a new baby!! A freshly washed new baby. If you have ever known the delight of holding a new baby on your shoulder and putting your face into it's sweet neck....that's the feeling that comes over me when I smell this smell.
Are there particular smells which affect you strongly? And do you know why?
Sometimes I find things, but more often than not things find me.
Here are some of the things that found me today about the pandemic and reactions to it other than those of politicians and economists...
(Because of the random nature of this phenomenon I regret can't always credit them.)
We must stay calm and centred so that we don't contrubute to the fear and anxiety.
Two separate lines from a poem by South African Anton Taylor:
The sun rises each day and so do the numbers
We must choose: I or Us
We choose Us
I think it was Jack Kornfield's wife who said that when you see the empty stadium or theatre what you are seeing is love in action - we are protecting people we will never meet - 'look into the emptiness and marvel at all that love'.
Ask if the pandemic is happening to us or for us.
This could be the time to do that inner work.
We all have forgiveness to do for our hearts to be free.
Dolly Parton has written a song about it one line of which is:
If the virus don't kill us, the stay-at-home will!
Shall we just keep calm and carry on?
Mindful Escapes: Breathe, Release, Restore is a new programme on BBC 4 with truly wonderful nature photography. The very best thing about it is not being told that all the fabulous plants and animals are facing imminent extinction and that it's all our fault!!
There is very little commentary - we are allowed to gaze in wonder and amazement....
Here is a short sample from YouTube..just three minutes but the programme is 30 minutes long and late in the evening. Perfect before bed.
Now tell me that didn't slow you down!
It seems you have to sign up for emails from Marie Kondo at konmarie.com to get this little meditation video. I can't link to it directly. I do find the emails attractive and short and not too frequent, so you might like to give it a try?
I will keep this on my phone to use anywhere, anytime I need two minutes to chill.
I think if this pandemic experience has taught me anything it has taught me to be more patient.
To appreciate slow.
To take the time to do ordinary things properly.
I wonder if when it is over I will speed up again?
Has coronavirus taught you anything about yourself?
I bought a little notebook long and narrow, for lists. I do like lists! It was divided into Morning Afternoon Evening and In-between.
Using it for the first time to plan my day I filled in various tasks under each heading and when I got to In-between I was about to add a few more chores when I thought No, In-between should be pause for thought, consider what I've just done, ask how successful it was, or wasn't, or how it made me feel, take a breath or a break before rushing on to the next thing....
It's quite important with big things too. A major project at work or at home, an excursion, a holiday, a family event happy or sad.
One thing about this time though - you have to take it. The chances are no-one will give it to you!
I've grown to love the In-between times, they bring me back to myself, whether it's a minute or two between phone calls, or a few days of juicing and retreat which I've had this week.
I forgot to link to Toppings Booksellers. I see they have shops in Ely, Bath, and St Andrews as well as Edinburgh.
The odd tick from the heater in the hall.
A crow caw.
My own breath.
Otherwise, utter silence.
I put a log on the fire and light a candle.
My head is processing all the excitement of a few days in Glasgow and Edinburgh with Mary, and I'll be posting about them soon, but today I have become aware of how important the in-between times are.
Today I am having a retreat day.
...put off asking for help even when you know you really need it?
And then finally ask and find it is freely given and wasn't a big deal?
We think we ought to do everything ourselves, don't want to be a nuisance or a burden, are afraid of looking foolish because we don't know how to do something, or we dread being told no and then we might die of embarassment. Somehow it is very hard to say the simple words Would you help me with this. (For some weird reason I can remember how to say it in Swedish but find it sometimes almost impossible to say in my own language.)
I have an eye condition which means that in certain light I don't see very well and I have had to learn to speak up and ask for help on many occasions. I have found that people love to help. I have never been refused help when I have asked for it (and I do know that no-one actually dies of embarassment!)
So I turn things around in my head and ask myself If someone asked me to do this would I think they ought to do it themselves, or they are a nuisance or stupid? In all likelihood I would think they must have a reason for asking and I'd probably be happy to help if I could.
There's also perhaps the idea that to ask for help is to show weakness but knowing what courage it sometimes takes I prefer to think it shows strength to be able to ask for what I need.
What do you think?
First snow on the tops means it's time for the orange and cinnamon candle. Love it.
Sitting on the porch with a snuggly soft blanket and a cup of hot chocolate yesterday.
I reached for the old threadbare travel rug as it was a bit chilly to sit out, but felt the thickness and softness of this one under my hand - it was on top of the other in the cupboard. It seemed ridiculous to use this lovely bedroom blanket outside but I took it anyway, and found myself making hot chocolate instead of coffee.
The experience of sitting there was such a delight that I began wondering about my attidutde to self indulgence. Pampering was not a word in my vocabulary growing up. We were brought up to be hardy! I can remember as a very young child my Dad rubbing me down with a hard towel after swimming (or I should say being in tthe chilly water - I couldn't swim) and telling me it was good for me.
I had loving parents and we were never treated harshly, but we were not indulged either!
Maybe this is why it feels special.
So all this gorgeous 'hygge and the candles and cushions and throws and taking photographs of it all don't come naturally. I make a conscious decision to do these things in the knowledge that the small 'indulgences' and lovely photographs help me through the hard times. They don't make me soft, they make me strong. They make me grateful.
Snuggled on the porch for half and hour with the sun on my face, some gardening done (I have to 'earn' it of course!), listening to the robin and the wren, watching the light and the shadows change...
I can;t think of a reason.
Continuing Life Lessons From Phoebe.
Lesson nine : play every day.
Never ignore a ball that comes your way.
And if all else fails just run fast all around the house, hurtle up and down the stairs, dive on and off the furniture leaping in the air and round and round in circles.
At least once a day, more if you feel like it.
Lesson ten : Just be yourself. This is maybe the best lesson of all. Phoebe is never anthing but just Phoebe.
Shall we just be ourselves and be content?
We are enough.
At least for today.
I've been cat-sitting, and cat wathing and learning a few important things. We had an unexpectedly warm day and I watched Phoebe set out for a place in the sun, and with nothing urgent to do I copied her for a day. I lay on the grass in the sunshine and did absolutely nothing for an hour.
Lesson one : Lie in the sun when you get the chance.
Lesson two : eat when you feel like it
and stop when you've had enough.
Lesson three :when you decide to rest for a bit, wriggle and squirm about until you are in a completely comfortable position
then let go totally.
It seems that with practice you can learn to do this anywhere.
By the end of day one I was so relaxed!
More lessons tomorrow,,,,
While doing the dishes I paused to watch a blackbird. He was sitting on the grass, beak agape with his wings and tail spread out, basking in the sunshine, occasionally preening the odd feather. (Yes, another suuny day - they alternate between non-stop rain and hot sun!).
So I took a leaf from his book and went and sat on the doorstep among the flowers and the bees.
I pndered on how odd it is that this can be hard to do. Just being I mean - given that we are human be-ings.
Once past childhood we may have to re-learn it with classes and courses on meditation and mindfulness.
I sat there trying not to think of my to-do list and found that if I counted my blessings instead I could quieten my mind and more readily just be...
I have a doorstep!
I have a house
The sky is blue
It's not raining
The bees love my flowers
I love my flowers
I have peace. No-one is threatening me
A machine is washing my bedlinen as I sit here
The music of Bach is drifting through my home
I got a lovely message from a friend
I have friends
I can pay my bills
I have a kitchen full of good food
This is a paradise moment
You get the idea...I probably came up with 50 or so. I could easily come up with 100.
Of course then I began to compose a blog post and think about taking some photographs, but I did all that from a place of real relaxation and pure pleasure.
What works for you?
And don't you just love your freshly changed bed? Blessed indeed.
We can send spaceships to Mars but we can't have Christmas lights that last from one year to the next!!
Plugged in. switched on - nothing. I summoned all my patience and read the instructions for changing the bulbs - they assumed that some were working so didn't quite make sense..
Brought them downstairs and put on some music expecting this to be a long process, plugged in, switched on and Lo!
Are your lights working?
Before I had made any Artist Date plans an offer came of a lift to the city and I said yes. I arrived in the Merchant City area which I don't know very well without my usual plans and lists, and realised this was the perfect opportunity for an Artist Date - just to wander and look, without a purpose, but with my camera.....
I also popped into some posh shops (a bit outside my comfort zone). Gorgeous fabrics - tweeds with a twist. Not really my style, but I did enjoy looking.
This was too far outside my comfort zone though! So I stayed outside it.
..with your creative self.
I'm reviving a habit I picked up many years ago from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, and that is the Artist's Date. Essentially time out, once a week,on your own, doing things that spark joy.
It says a lot about my current habits that I am having to think quite hard about what they might be, and I have to be careful not to let it become just another thing on my to-do list! Not that I don't have fun (this blog is fun) but I need and like something different now and then. It's purpose is to delight and enchant you'says Cameron and to take you out of your comfort zone.
(Gulp. I can get very fond of my comfort zone., especially in winter.)
If you Google Artist's Date and/or Julia Cameron, check out YouTube, or click on See Inside on the book on Amazon you will get lots more detail if this concept is new to you.
This will be part of my Winter Plan, and I'll be checking in once a week with my friend M.
Will you join us? We are going for the widest possible interpretation of Artist and of Date by the way...
If you'r a bit rushed or stressed try taking five minutes for a mini-meditation.
A couple of deep breaths and pay attention one by one to all your senses...
What do you see in front of you, to left and to right, in the sky above and on the ground below?
What can you hear close by and in the far distance?
What can you smell?
What can you taste?
What are you touching with all parts of your body?
How are you feeling?
Calmer hopefully, and grounded.
A quiet day at home.
One of my favourite books is one I bought at an extremely busy time of my life - children, full time work and study.
It's a particularly lovely edition (paperback, now well worn) with beautiful photographs.
Tao abides in non-action
Yet nothing is left undone
I couldn't claim then or now to understand the meaning but I liked the ambiguity and the apparent acceptance of mystery. I found it very calming.
With the recent bout of clearing and talk of emptiness and space I find it grounding to look at this book.
Do you have a book that brings you calm?
An artist seeking a simpler life - (but not too simple!)