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.


Manifesting a Dream


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.

Digging Deep

Books, books…Books about prehistory, books about gardening, novels, books about writing, books of short shories, books about creativity, knitting books, books about running a business from home… Everywhere in my house there are books.  Discovering a book about creativity and gardening – well, that seemed too good to be true, so when the chance to read and review one came my way, I had to jump at it.  Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots through Gardening by Fran Sorin had me out in the garden relishing getting my hands dirty before I was halfway through.

[Yes, I was given a free Kindle copy to review.  But I would have bought it anyway, and been very glad I did – in fact I may well buy a paper copy too, since there’s something satisfying about holding a physical book, plus I like the cover.  And it’s easier to dip in and out of a paper book.  But I digress.  That’s a whole post in itself and I’ll save it for another day.]

In Digging Deep, Fran gently takes you by the hand and leads you through ‘7 stages of creative awakening’, showing beautifully how gardening can be a truly creative endeavour.  There are plenty of practical tips too.  But it’s not just for gardeners – I found that I was reading a lot of her words and applying them to writing, particularly when she talks about creativity (and gardening) as a journey that just keeps on evolving.

There’s something irresistible and infectious about her love of gardening and the creative process.  I’ve always been a very practical gardener (I grow veg and fruit and don’t think too much about the overal aesthetic), but the book made me realise that it’s my garden, and I can make it beautiful to me.  My favourite thing in my whole garden is a giant dahlia that I put in on a whim and which keeps getting bigger and more pink and exhuberant every year.  Secretly, I wanted the whole garden to have that feeling – and now, thanks to this book, I’m realising that it’s up to me to make sure that it does!

I’ll leave you with the words I enjoyed most from the book: “You cannot simply tap into your creative nature once and then expect to be done with it.  It’s a lifelong process – a continual commitment to being open to possibility, trusting your instincts, experimenting, taking risks, and revising.”  That sounds to me like a great description of the process of developing as a writer, or growing a business, as well as being a gardener!

So, if you feel in need of a dose of creative inspiration – whether you’re a gardener or not – do take a look at Digging Deep.  You too may find yourself itching to get back into your garden, or even back to your writing desk.

It is enough

How easily we tell ourselves that we haven’t done enough, that we aren’t enough.  But stop and count it up, and you are enough.  Even if all you did today was get from one end of the day to the other, you are enough.

Take one of my recent days, for example:

A poorly boy was tended, nurtured and loved.  He was brought soothing drinks and cuddles, and tucked up tight at the end of the day.

A family was fed healthy meals.  (The ones who were able to eat!)

Writing obligations were kept, and new opportunities were followed up.

A week’s worth of laundry was washed, dried and put away.  (And the remainder piled up for the husband to iron. No need for us to carry all the burden ourselves, remember.)

Clients were responded to, meetings arranged and more obligations kept.

Body and soul were held together for another day.

It is enough. It is more than enough. Living and working: together they make a rounded whole.

Unexpected October blessings

So far this October is not only proving that life is seasonal, but that you don’t always get the season you expected either.

We expected crisp, cool mornings and maybe even a touch of frost in the early hours.  We’re getting warm, humid ones in which you can still go outside in pyjamas and bare feet at 7am to feed the rabbit.

October generally involves cosy boots and woolly jumpers.  This year I’m still slapping around in flipflops and leaving the cardi at home.

Ah, the autumn colours: red, gold and russet leaves spiralling down in the slanting sunshine.  Not yet; not this year.  Many trees are still as green as June and the rest are only just beginning to fade and curl.  At least there are conkers – we’re thankful for that.  The boy produced an enormous quantity from the pocket of his school shorts (shorts!) the other day after complaining that the weight was pulling his shorts down.  I wasn’t surprised; there must have been twenty of them in there.

October means pumpkins swelling like friendly monsters in the vegetable patch.  But my pumpkin plants came to nothing this season and I’m still wandering into the garden at lunchtime to gather handfuls of tomatoes, courgettes and green beans.

Previous years have seen me happily cramming the cupboards with chutneys, pickles and jams.  This October is busy with work and study, so there are rather more Chinese takeaways and fish and chip suppers than usual, and not a kilner jar in sight.  (Except for the one that holds the popcorn!)

I love the seasons, whatever they bring – it’s the change that’s so invigorating.  So, in seasonal changes as in all things, let’s expect (and embrace) the unexpected.

[I wrote this a couple of days ago.  Since then the expected season has arrived suddenly, with sinking temperatures, angry red sunrises, wind and rain.  Which just goes to show, seasons change and we should enjoy every moment before it turns into something else!]

Life is seasonal

Some years I’m inspired by the glowing red globes of the tomato mountain spilling out of the greenhouse and into the kitchen, and I happily cook up pots of delicious tomato chilli jam. (Fantastic with sausages, cheese – pretty much anything, in fact.)

This year, despite the glowering and the threats from the tomatoes every time I walk into the kitchen, the cupboard remains bare of any tomato-related preserves, and I’m refusing to feel guilty.  Everything is seasonal, and I’m sure my kitchen goddess persona (ha ha) will return another day, another season.  For now, she’s frolicking in other pastures.  Or something.

A friend told me recently that she’d been inspired by my blog.  Delighted as I was, I laughed out loud when she said she’d been inspired to not work at home! She’d had her season of doing that and now she needed to go out to work and leave the domestic stuff behind.  And I completely understand that.  While I’ll not be leaving my haven of domesticity, I’ll let the preserve-making slide and enjoy the late sunshine instead.  This season won’t last forever.

Reasons to work at home

Days, sometimes weeks, go by in a blur of thinking and doing.

Then, on a hot (yes, hot!) September day, something clicks and I remember why I work at home.  For the walk or bike ride to school and the nonsense conversations that happen during those times.  For the garden. For the freedom. To live as well as to work.

And so I wander out to the greenhouse and pull away the yellowing tomato leaves and the dying plants to give the remaining green tomatoes space and light to ripen.  (Spending the next ten minutes scrubbing the weird yellow stuff from the tomato leaves and stems off my hands.  What is that stuff?)

It may not look like much from the outside.  But those few minutes in the garden in the September sunshine are grounding, a reminder of the reasons why: my boy, my garden,  my life.