Born in the wrong century

Bowl in hand, I wander slowly along the hedgerow, seeking out the freshest (and cleanest!) nettle tips and a handful of the brightest Jack-by-the-hedge leaves.  Cooked briefly, the nettles lose their sting and taste like spinach, and Jack-by-the-hedge certainly lives up to its other name of garlic mustard.

Never mind that my ultimate destination is the little veg patch at the bottom of the garden where I’ve planted lettuce and radish and have my eye on some juicy thinnings.  Never mind that these fresh greens are destined to be mixed into a bowl of spaghetti and cheese gathered from the supermarket and not from the wild.  (But if there was such a thing as a spaghetti tree I would plant it, and a cheese tree would be worth its weight in gold!)

Never mind, then, that my meal won’t be authentically prehistoric.  Even with the modern additions, collecting these leaves from the hedge connects me to a way of life that feels right and stirs up echoes of a past I’d like to visit.

But I think I’d want to come back to the present too, if only for the cake!

DO ALL THE THINGS

Are there too many things to do, or is it just that we (or I, at least) have an overriding need to do ALL THE THINGS and – here’s the real problem – do them ALL AT ONCE, NOW?

Everything we do, we do in stages.  Even something as simple as making a cup of tea involves a whole series of steps, from getting up off the chair to filling the kettle, switching it on, and so on.

So when we’re starting a new venture, or simply trying to get done all the things that we’re committed to doing, let’s remember that we can’t do them all at once.  We can only do them one step at a time.

No prizes for guessing who this post is written for.  You, my reader, of course, but mostly as a reminder to myself that I can’t do all the things all at once!

Of rats and women

A rat is nosing around the garden in broad daylight, sniffing out and devouring Benjy the rabbit’s leftovers.  He is sleek and young and his fur shines in the sunshine.  I wonder if I should be chasing him away, but he’s outside, where he should be, not trespassing into the house or shed, or even digging in the compost bin.  So instead I watch him, wondering where he sleeps and whether he (or she, of course) is breeding a host of baby rats with whom I may eventually have to do battle.

I think of him sleeping in a nest somewhere, in a cosy nook he’s made for himself, and am glad that, at least for the moment, we can live amicably side by side.  If Benjy is willing to share his leftovers, so am I.

Then I read about the weasel that brought the Large Hadron Collider to a standstill and I wonder if perhaps I’m being too forgiving!

Magical May

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.

Harmonious lists

Sometimes it’s the simplest things which have the most profound impact.  Yesterday I made a chart of all the projects in my head, work or otherwise, and listed the things I knew needed to be done on each.  Result: a clear head, and a sense of relief that I didn’t have to keep thinking about them all, because they were written down, all together, in an orderly fashion.  I could even start to prioritise and plan.

It’s part of the drive for an integrated life, which I wrote about yesterday. Bringing everything together, acknowledging that it’s all part of the same life, can be really helpful.  It doesn’t mean that everything gets mushed together in a big mess and you have to do laundry and tax returns and business planning and all the other stuff all at the same time.  It’s not about juggling, and certainly not about multi-tasking.  (Now that’s another thing I don’t believe in, like work/life balance.)

Bringing all the parts of your life together like this makes is much easier to see which are the most pressing things, which are the biggest things, and which are the things that you simply don’t have time or mental space to do just at the moment.  (Yes, it shows jut how realistic or otherwise your plans really are!)  And whether you work at home, or outside of the home, it enables you to be very clear about boundaries between tasks.  Because if it’s all written down in the same place, it won’t be forgotten, so you can afford to focus on just one thing at a time, knowing that the others will be taken care of in their turn.

Of course, it’s one thing to write all the things down, and quite another to actually get them done.  Procrastination comes to us all.  But, in the spirit of true procrastination, I’ll post about that – tomorrow!

I don’t believe in work-life balance

“Work/life balance”.  What does the phrase mean to you?  I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a helpful one.  It implies that work is not part of life and, as we all know, work is very much a part of our lives.  It implies that there is work (over there), and there is life (over here), and that they are at opposite ends of a metaphorical seesaw.  Only when the seesaw is perfectly horizontal can we possibly be happy.

What if we there was only life?  Our life, which is made up of many parts, one of which is this thing we call work.  What if we didn’t need to keep work and life separate but could integrate them into one harmonious whole?

You may wear many hats, but you wear the same head under each of them.  You are always you, and everything you do is part of your life, wherever you are and whoever you are with.  How would your life be different if you began to perceive everything in it as part of the same thing?

Manifesting a Dream

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It may look like part of a historical display, or just a place to shelter from the rain.  But it’s also a dream.

Soon there will be an old-style wooden gypsy caravan in my garden. There is no logical reason for this. Nobody will be living in it or travelling in it. It has no shafts, anyway, so it can no longer be drawn by a horse. Getting it into the garden is causing many logistical challenges. (There is mud. A lot of mud. There is hedge removal – hedge consisting mainly of things with very sharp thorns. There is a narrow lane and there is an electric fence.)

But this is not just a caravan. It is a dream come true. It’s a ride to future possibility. It’s creativity on wheels. It’s a huge, believe-in-yourself gift to my creative heart-led self.

Maybe that seems a lot to expect from a wooden shed on wheels. But squint carefully through the fog of time and, at a distance of about thirty years, you’ll see a little blonde girl gazing up at that shed on wheels with joy and wonder and a visible sparkle all around her. She imagines living a life of adventure under that canvas roof. She’s fascinated by its tiny cupboards and drawers and windows. She wants to snuggle up in the built-in bed and drift away. She writes a story with herself as the heroine and the wooden caravan as the place where magic happens. In the story-within-a-story in her mind, she imagines her writer-self scribbling her stories perched in its open doorway.  To see this wood, iron and canvas dream become real in front of her seems like a miracle.

We don’t all share the same dreams. One person’s deepest longing may be another person’s biggest folly. But dreams are important and it’s vital to support our own and those of others. My husband sees no need at all for a wooden gypsy caravan in our back garden and yet – and I bless him for it – he’s willing to acknowledge and accept that it matters deeply to me and to that little blonde girl I once was (and perhaps still am).

Dreams may be ethereal and mystical, but manifesting them is a strangely practical activity involving a lot of hard work. In this case I’ve sweated for hours removing bramble, hawthorn and blackthorn, suffered injury from all those thorns, carried out complex negotiations with neighbours over access, and been at the mercy of the rain that’s causing the mud that’s preventing final delivery. (My dream would be in danger of sinking into the neighbour’s field if we tried to bring it into the garden now. There is probably some meaningful metaphor here, but I don’t want to over-stretch the point!)

If a dream is going to come true, at some point we have to make the switch from dreamer to do-er. And there always comes a point when you wonder if it’s worth the effort. (A bramble whipping across your face and drawing blood will do that.) But it is. Even if no-one shares your dream, you can make it happen and it will be worth it.

When the field dries out and my caravan comes home, I can’t wait to go out and meet it and my little-girl self again.