May is such a magical month. Forgive me for being terribly British and talking about the weather, but indulge me for a minute.
Glorious blue sky, bright sunshine that calls you outside, seeming almost to reach in with warm soft fingers, take your hand and draw you through the door before you realise it. Trees are beginning to wear a halo of green, though some still stand almost bare after a cold, wet start to spring. Birds are calling, even the boy is noticing the different kinds hopping in the hedgerows, and somehow the screech of two cats yowling at each other is softened and sounds like part of the liveliness of the day.
Perhaps we appreciate it more after a week of grey skies, hail and winter vests. (A week which followed months of actual winter, as opposed to a spring which couldn’t make up its mind.) Perhaps if you live where the sun always shines bright and the sky is always blue, you long for a soft, grey, even rainy, day. But here, today, nothing could be more perfect than the festival of spring that’s unfolding in my back garden.
A strong breeze overturned my pots of pinks during the night.
This morning the boy found one of the flowers lying on the driveway. Now it’s brightening up the kitchen table, and my day.
What will you do to notice the beauty around you today?
I pause on the kitchen step, watering can in hand. The sun is dazzling. Nothing can be more beautiful than a spring day.
I take in a parcel for a neighbour and chat to her when she calls to collect it.
I speak to a client about the work her charity is doing – work that I’m helping to make possible.
I stop work at 3pm to walk up the road and collect the boy from school. I’ll only be doing this for a few more short months. I savour them.
I remember why.
I didn’t go freelance because I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I didn’t start my own business to make waves, or to make millions. I didn’t want to be a businesswoman; I wanted to be here. In living and working at home the purpose, for me, is to live. To notice and enjoy the everyday moments.
The garden is green now, and beautiful. There are primroses, and strong broad bean plants, and a beloved pet rabbit. It’s our private outdoor space, a refuge and sanctuary. Yet many times, as I stare through the kitchen window at it, I see none of this. I see the thoughts I’m having and the things I’m remembering and it’s all clouded by whatever emotions I’m feeling at the time.
I’m not expert in mindfulness, but I find it’s a joyful experience to remind myself what I’m doing and what I’m seeing. What I’m doing and what I’m seeing now – this is life. If I live only in my head, life is passing me by.
So I say to myself, this is our garden. And suddenly I can truly see it again.
I say, I’m cooking stew for my family. And I breathe, and I begin to see the onions as onions, not as a chore to be done while I think about something else.
When I’m holding the boy in my arms, that’s all I’m doing. This is life. I see it. And it is enough.
I may be chopping an onion but these are tears of happiness. Everything is back to normal.
A few days working away from home could seem quite attractive sometimes: no meals to cook; no cleaning to do; the ability to focus on the job at hand without feeling torn in several different directions; the possibility of whole conversations without anyone mentioning computer games or Greek myths or superheroes.
And it’s true that the return home can be a bit shaky. Aside from the happiness of seeing the family again, it’s a shock to have to deal with the unpacking, the mountain of laundry I seem to have brought home with me (I’m sure I didn’t wear that many clothes), the meal that everyone is somehow expecting me to produce for dinner, the two school trips requiring packed lunches that we all seem to have forgotten about, and whatever this week’s boyish obsession happens to be.
But it’s the routine and the regularity and the sheer normality of home that makes it such a special place to be. Once the bags are put away and everything’s settled down, there is something very right about standing in the kitchen, in my usual spot, watching the knife in my hand slice through the shiny skin of a red onion. I’m home. This is where I should be.
Suffolk is apparently one of the driest counties in the UK. Ha, not this week. In our village, walking the half mile from home to school these days involves super-human feats of leaping across (or wading through) ankle-deep mud-puddles that cover the whole pavement. Then there are the high-speed dashes to safety to avoid the car-induced tidal waves that threaten to engulf you.
It’s a glamorous life. Waterproof coats and even waterproof trousers are essential. Wellies too, of couse, otherwise you may have to choose between wet and muddy feet or an undignified piggy-back over the lakes that are spreading everywhere.
But it’s real. Heavy grey skies and cold, driving rain may not be everyone’s (or, indeed, anyone’s) weather of choice, but it’s part of the seasonal cycle and I’m privileged to be able to get outside in the fresh open air to experience (if not always enjoy) nature doing its thing.
I spent most of yesterday – when I wasn’t paddling through the village in my wellies dodging the waves and sliding in the mud – on dry, over-heated trains and in draughty concrete and steel station buildings, and I felt grubby and stuffy and not-quite-real. Give me a bit of good honest mud and sheeting rain any day. Just promise me dry clothes and a hot cup of tea afterwards!
I’m taking a week to enjoy autumn – now it’s finally beginning to arrive.
It’s just dawned on me that school holidays offer that possibility. There’s the summer break – that’s obvious. But then there’s October half term (autumn); Christmas and February half term (two opportunities to experience two faces of winter!) and then Easter and spring.
It’s so easy to barrel through life, head down and not looking to right and left. I’m going to take a week to look up, and to left and right, to play in the leaves and let the wind tangle my hair. See you in November.