same same, but different

The residency is over. I’m all moved out of the flat and I handed the keys back in. I’ve been feeling a little flat this week – since I found out I got the residency last November, it was the thing I was looking forward to about this year….then suddenly I was there and doing it, and it has been so wonderful, rich, busy, a true gift! Then just as quickly, it’s all done.

Here is the first photograph I took of the All Saint’s steeple I could see from the flat window:


I started taking a photograph of the steeple, not every time I went to the flat, but many times. Same view, different day. Same steeple, different sky.

I got married in that church, so I have a special affection for it. It’s now obsolete because of earthquake risk. I hope it doesn’t get knocked down.


Apart from the writing time (which was amazing) here are some things about the residency:

I loved having a cave up in the sky to hide in. It was like a retreat in many ways. (Admittedly a 9.30-2.30 retreat, with parenting and housework at both ends…but that’s the closest to a retreat I’m likely to get at this stage in my life, so I ain’t complainin’.)


I re-learned focus, and pro-longed attention, and diligence. After a decade of snatching writing time around work and children, it was incredible to have the gift of TIME. It took me about three weeks to sink into it, at first I had major ants-in-my-pants after the first few hours each day…but boy, am I used to it now.


I read 27 challenging, brain-stretching books, from Thoreau to Dillard to Liberty Hyde Bailey to Terry Tempest Williams….


I stayed off the internet during the days. It was peaceful. It was spacious. I sank into the quiet.


I ate a lot of toast and drank a lot of tea.


I enjoyed reading and thinking nearly as much as writing. I was happy to discover how much…that if I never publish another book, I don’t really mind. I’ll always have reading and thinking.


I really like my own company. I always suspected I did, but I haven’t had the space since I had kids to confirm it.


I listened to student radio and discovered lots of new music.


Pigeons roost in the steeple. They fly in late morning and out late afternoon.


I think that’s all I have to say…

This week after moving out of the flat I’ve been working in the public library which is:

a) noisier

b) much warmer

c) full of people with snotty noses and hacking coughs

d) not as good as the flat

e) perfectly fine

I don’t know what the point of this post is. Except I wanted to share some of my steeple photographs, and to mark the end of the residency somehow.

Thank you, All Saints steeple for being my companion through all of the weather this winter.  I will miss you! x


10 responses to “same same, but different”

  1. I love your steeple photos! What wonderful revelations you had. I hope these transitional days go easy on you xxx


  2. Oh how I love your thoughts, discoveries, and words. I am envious of your finding focus. I could really use some of that so sprinkle a little my way, okay? Warmest hugs and hot tea and new adventures! The steeple photos are lovely. I like the same but different.


  3. Lovely! Those pictures are gorgeous, and kind of encapsulate the depth you kind find when you have stillness and time to concentrate. They’re all of the same thing, but they’re all so different. I’m heartened to hear that after a little while you settled into the time and regained your focus. And also a bit jealous! Hope you manage to keep up your own (unpaid, alas) residency! x


  4. Beautiful steeple photos. I endorse what Helen R said about the depth in them. And lovely to read about your writing (and other stuff, too) retreat. Take things gently on re-emerging, that can be a real mix of things after a retreat. xx


  5. This reminds me of the overwhelming sense I had of drowning in my thoughts, when I first went back to full-time study after having three kids (then a divorce …) – it jangles the nerves to be away from the children at first, but then you develop an insatiable need to read, think, write and discuss what is now going on in your mind!

    Good luck with the ‘year after’ as you integrate what you’ve discovered into your ‘regular’ life!


  6. beautiful photos as always Helen – can feel the connection you have for that place! Love you and your wonderful mind. xxx


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