darling, you are radishing!

Here is a photograph of a jolly bunch of radishes I bought the other day.

radishes

They were fine tasting radishes, mild but peppery, juicy, sweet. Their plump brightness cheered me right up, because I’m the sort of person who is cheered by radishes or silly pop songs or even just a very good very hot cup of tea.

I’ve been fighting off the inclination to write one of those terrible posts where the blog writer write tediously about their own blog, and what the point of it is, and how they aren’t sure why they keep blogging and how photographs of jolly radishes seem a bit absurd in the face of the plight of the bees, and children getting gassed to death while going about their business and general chest-crushing future uncertainty. But fortunately, I haven’t succumbed. Or have I? (See what I did there?)

Here is a different view of the same radishes:

radishes_2

 

 

 

Advertisements

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:

as_16

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.

as_14

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’.)

as_11

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.

as_10

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

as_8

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

as_7

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

as_6

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 like my brain!

as_5

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.

as_4

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

as_3

I thought I was going to write about the end of the world but instead I wrote about the beginning of a new one.

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

as_1

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.

I had a cuppa and an almond croissant with a dear friend to ‘celebrate’ (?) The End and she gave me celery seedlings and chocolate and lent me a lovely book and…life romps on.

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

as_2

 

take care

day_life

I like the ‘nesting’ quality of winter. The retreat of it….withdrawing, restoring…

I put more effort into meals, into keeping everyone warm, into creature comforts.

I try to go a bit slower and breathe a bit deeper.

I do yoga to keep warm, I tote a hot water bottle around the house….and I eat a lot of soup. I hope you’re keeping warm, too.

day_life_2

picking up what the wind drops

I took a walk to a nearby section where an old house had recently been demolished. They are building shops there. I dug up a wormwood plant and rescued an iron gate from a skip which I’ll use as a frame for beans in the vegetable garden. 

When I walk I am looking for stray plants and clues of what other humans are doing, their leavings, their signs.

So many gardens are neglected and full of mistakes – odd plantings, strange schemes gone wrong. It’s a lexicon of thwarted plans, migration, human error. But I love all the gardens, all of them. I love where weeds come in and grow where no one thought there was any dirt. I love the twee tidy gardens around the brick units where the widows live – all pansies and polyanthus and tight little roses. I love the student flat gardens with the crushed comfrey and the gnarled old lemon trees. There is a place deep in my heart for the gardens inside the gates of kindergartens – old tractor tyres full of marigolds and strawberry plants, glitter and matchbox cars.

These dahlias were planted behind a tin-shed, hard up against a damp bank…..in entirely the wrong place and where no one can see them (except me, because I creep and snoop) so I pick them and drop them at a friend’s door.

white_dahlias

I pick up windfall apples from the house across from the supermarket. They are a bit bruised but will do for pie. At another house someone has left ice-cream containers of passionfruit for $2 each on their fence. I take one and leave a coin in the letterbox.

I don’t fully understand my own instinct for gleaning. It’s more than acquisition. It’s something to do with control, and side-stepping capitalism and burrowing into a universe where people trade in fruit and the urban environment is one big shared playground. I like my own company but I spend too much time in it and then I read the street and try to draw meaning from the random and the incidental.

Occasionally a garden is stunning and special and makes perfect sense, but these gardens are rare:

holloway_1holloway_2

Right now, there is an American oil company doing exploratory drilling in the hills near Dannevirke. If they find enough, they have plans to frack for oil. Local farmers and  Iwi have been protesting there this week and it is getting almost no media coverage. There are similar exploratory tests going on near Whangarei, but for gold.

I have been following the effects of fracking in Pennsylvania, USA where fracking for natural gas has been happening for some years now. None of the news is good. Profound pollution, deformities and stillbirths in animal stock, rising cancer rates and the tap water is flammable.

Hold a lighter to your running tap and it lights up. Imagine.

Parts of the Manawatu River are so polluted from intensive dairy farming and factory run-off IT SPONTANEOUSLY CATCHES FIRE.

Water on fire. Water on fire.

On the way to pick the youngest up from school I pass a house with a big walnut tree. There are walnuts all over the path, so I pick them up. I always carry a cloth bag in my hand bag for spontaneous foraging. It’s like maybe if I notice the trees enough, maybe if I honour the fruit enough, maybe if I pick up enough windfalls and rescue enough plants….maybe then…? Maybe then.

feel the fear….and feel the fear

“Love what you have, and you’ll have more love.” -Regina Spektor

Aah, THIS SONG …”the piano is not firewood yet….” so much yearning in this song.  I’m can’t stop playing it. In it she is saying, ‘Who knows what is ahead of us, so dance today, love today.’

I am an environmentalist, or a greenie, or an eco-freak or whatever – I hate these labels – we should ALL be these things if we care about our future on this planet, and they shouldn’t need labels – it should just be conscious living.

Anyway, because I am awake and aware to what is going on in the world (unlike many people who prefer to do the hands over their ears -“LAH LAH LAH LAH – I CAN’T HEAR YOUUUUUUU….!” thing) – the awareness comes with a great deal of pain. However, it’s not all bad….knowing the things I know does two things to me – firstly, it gives me a great appreciation for what I have, while I still have it and it returns me firmly to the ‘now’ of my life. I sit with so much fear about the future, for myself, my children, my country, the planet…so much fear. But the fear is ultimately pointless, unhelpful, useless. So I sit with the fear in meditation, I observe how it manifests in my body – churning stomach, tight neck, tears coming into my eyes, overwhelming feelings of powerlessness – I try to just sit in that place, observe the physicality of the emotions….and then it goes, it always goes. The sooner I observe it and name it…the sooner it goes.

The second thing the fear does it that is leads me to cultivate beauty and celebration in my life. Actively, I seek it out. I try to create it. I NOTICE all that I have and I am thankful for it, so thankful!

The intellect only gets us so far. Most of what we experience is physical and sensual. To live a life of contentment (not happiness – happiness is a fickle, lightweight state of being that flits in and out of our days like a butterfly, just to be content is what I aim for) takes attention, cultivation and gratitude. These are mental attitudes that often take a bit of effort in our human minds which more naturally descend into chaos, anger, jealousy and fear.

I don’t know how I ended up writing this today – I meant to post about my vegetable garden. I still will – but I guess I wanted to say a bit about why I post so often about simple things which bring me pleasure, beautiful things in my life…which may seem facile, unintellectual, maybe even banal. There is so much going on underneath these little observations, so so much.

I was at Buddhist study group last night and my teacher, Demo, was talking about bringing Dharma (buddhist wisdom) into the heart, to stop intellectualising it and feel it, physically feel it, and I knew just what she meant. On Monday I was having a particularly fearful time – for no reason – it was beautiful sunny day, at home alone, no pressures on me, nowhere to be, no one needing anything from me and I was sitting at the table gripped with so much fear I could barely breathe. I named it fear, and I went from being enslaved by the fear and panicking at it’s escalation, to observing the fear as it manifested in my body. Stomach, shoulders, heart, face. I breathed deeply. I leaned into the fear. I sat there breathing until my shoulders loosened, my body relaxed.

And then I finished my tea, went outside, picked vegetables and took these photographs:

feb_8feb_5feb_6

feb_1feb_2feb_3feb_4feb_7feb_9

the rush to fill the empty spaces

There is a gap opening up in my life soon.

Nature abhors a vacuum, right? My tendency is always to fill spaces up with more things, new things, ways to make money/art, projects, whatever. This time, though, I promised myself I would sit with the space, lean into the quiet, listen in and see what comes up.

When I teach yoga, my students often talk to me about savasana (corpse pose, or the relaxation bit in a yoga class)…how the first few times they experience it, it often makes them feel uncomfortable. Their minds race, they feel awkward and overly intimate with their classmates by lying down in silence, they are hyper-aware of the sound of breathing, they might lie there waiting for it to be over, even…

…but with a bit of practice, after giving it a few goes….they come to like it, and then to look forward to it. Conscious relaxation (i.e. staying awake whilst deeply relaxing) can sometimes feel more restorative than eight hours sleep.

I think it is the same feelings with any empty spaces that appear in our lives – we are not used to stopping, to silence, to deep rest…at first it makes us feel uncomfortable, like we are ‘wasting time’, being unproductive, or we just don’t like the thoughts and feelings which come when there is a bit of room for them to rise up.

I have a feeling something big, absorbing and fulfilling lies ahead for me, but I’m not entirely sure what it is yet. This is why I am going to let the empty spaces be empty spaces….so I can create enough quiet to listen for what’s coming.

I’ve always been a to-do list person. If I have any free time, I write a big to-do list and set myself a goal of getting it done by the end of the morning, or the day or the week. I work methodically through it….tick! tick! tick!

I’ve written on here about how this year has been a bit of a creative low-point and there’s been a bit of burn-out, too.

I’ve discovered a new approach to free time. (No doubt this is not a revelation to many of you, seasoned moochers!)

Free-form pottering.

Instead of enslaving myself to a to-do list, which -while organised and productive- leaves my already frazzled spirit feeling weirdly pressured- I am pottering. Doing a bit of this, a bit of that, drifting from one task to another and back, dropping tasks if they start to annoy me…stopping for cups of tea more often.

Here’s what I am experiencing by pottering:

-my free time feels free

-I am nicer to my kids and am doing more with them, because I letting go of the notion of what I ‘have’ to achieve in a day. A game of Operation or a spontaneous round of biscuit baking with the kids is more important than me calling the IRD or editing a poem or whatever would have been on that to-do list.

-I am still getting a lot of things done. Pottering doesn’t mean doing nothing.

*

So, in my pottering space, in my savasana space, in my go slow/do less/breathe more space – I am sitting here – awaiting further instructions.

get away from her, you *****

Yay, September!

I’m happy to see September, because August has been mean to me.

In fact, in the weirdness that is my head – I imagine Sigourney Weaver coming in in a giant robot-suit and saying to August THIS

Ha ha!

September = official spring (even though the daffodils have been springing up and lambs appearing for weeks now) and my birthday in a few weeks.

I’m turning 40. Woo! Bring it on!

My late thirties have been very challenging in many ways, so I’m excited to start a new decade. However illusory ‘clean slates’ are, why not embrace them?

I heard a quotation by a Christian monk yesterday:

‘Sometimes the cure for exhaustion is not rest but wholeheartedness.’

This resonated with me, as for the last couple of years I have felt soooo tired. Not just ‘need a good sleep’ tired, but bone-weary, lacking in inspiration, I’ve lost my usual curiousity and sense of play in my creativity….. I thought I just needed more rest so I have scaled back and back and back what I do (although life is still full to the brim – how does that work??)….it doesn’t seem to have helped. I recognise this as ‘burn out’. However, mothers with young children don’t really get to have burn out, in that children still need caring for, housework still needs doing, meals need cooking. There must be ‘burned out’ mothers all over the globe who just keep on going. What choice do we have?

Hearing that quotation yesterday was like a bell ringing out in my chest…..waaaaaah, yes, too much scattered attention….too much compromise….just too much….

Something has to change.

All the time I am seeing more clearly what the changes are that I need to make!

If this all sounds a bit melancholy, it isn’t. I’m feeling pretty good.

Funny how if you won’t listen to your intuition, your body will often pack up in some way to send you the message more strongly…

Last week I hurt my back, badly enough that I couldn’t stand up straight and had to take a day off work to go to the doctor and osteopath…and a full week later it is still very painful…

SLOW THE HELL DOWN. PAY ATTENTION TO THE INFORMATION YOU ARE RECEIVING.

Okay! Okay! I get it.

Turns out I am not very good at not doing anything….even in pain and not much able to walk I went to work, made dinner, did the school-run…(on the other hand, nobody was telling me not to!)

Anyway, this was meant to just be a yay! I got through winter, almost intact!

Bring on the spring flowers, bring on paying attention, bring on my forties.

I’m ready.