Creating a life

I think I must be a mushroom.  Autumn gives me a new burst of energy and enthusiasm, like the funghi popping up in the woods.  Maybe it’s the cooler temperature or the glorious golden sunshine, or even the industrious example of the spiders busily spinning the webs that festoon the garden.  (And my hair, every time I poke my head into the greenhouse, which the spiders seem to have adopted and fortified as their own.)

Actually, maybe I’m not a mushroom.  Maybe I’m a spider, creating a life one strand at a time.

A web begins as a single strand and looks like a thin, wispy, inconsequential nothing.  But slowly, an inch or two at a time, the strands come together to make a beautiful, sparkling whole.

In the middle of the process a new web looks wrong.  Lopsided.  Incomplete.  There’s no pattern, no order.  But I don’t suppose the spider stops to question itself: “Am I doing this right?”  “Shouldn’t it look more like Cecil’s web over there?”  “What on earth will the other spiders think?”  The spider just does the work.

Autumn is a great time for new beginnings.  New season, new school year.  Whether the return to school affects you or not, I think the ‘newness’ of September is buried in all our psyches).  We even begin to wear different clothes.

But, like that first day when you squeeze your summer-liberated feet into shoes, or even boots, new beginnings aren’t always comfortable!  There’s always something to learn, and we’re used to knowing how things work without having to learn, or create, a new system.  There are new experiences, and they can make us feel nervous and uncomfortable.  The next step isn’t obvious, and isn’t familiar, and may feel hard to do.

Growing and creating something new often feels like a mess and a muddle in the middle, but if we can resist tidying everything up and going back to the old regime, eventually we will find glittering strands of silk among the rubble, polish them up, and weave them together to create our new way of being.  Like the spider, we need to just do the work, as Stephen Pressfield would have it, and get comfortable in the creative muddle.

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The beauty of change

I wish I could show you the beauty of this autumn garden.  A photo – especially one taken by me – just couldn’t begin to capture it.  Early this morning it was a dewy, misty corner shrouded in dripping cobwebs.  It was chilly and damp.

Now, as I hang the washing on the line, there is a golden haze all around and the glowing sun on my back is positively hot.  It highlights the glossy green of the chard and spinach in the vegetable patch, shines through the wings of the cabbage white butterflies marauding around the broccoli plants, and shows off the dusky grey-green of the leeks, making the chore of laundry management a positive pleasure.  It lures me into bringing the laptop outside to enjoy a late garden office day.  The sun is lower in the sky than it was a few weeks ago and I position myself carefully to avoid it getting in my eyes.

Change can be beautiful.  In ten minutes, one after the other, I experience intense heat, cool dampness as fat white clouds cover the sun, a sudden inexplicable breeze and a grey buildup in the eastern sky which threatens rain – followed by glorious sunshine once more.  In the vibrant radiance of this changing season I don’t miss for a second the sameness of summer, even as I chase my papers, which are skipping around the garden on the breeze for the second time.

The path of least resistance

I look out at the abundant harvest waiting in the garden: French beans, courgettes, carrots, beetroot, and more.

I walk to the freezer drawer and take out fish fingers, frozen peas, frozen sweetcorn, and frozen bread (home made, but not by me).

Some days we can’t even look up at our ideals, let alone reach for them.

And that’s ok.  Tomorrow is another day.

Besides, nobody complains about fish fingers with the same ferocity as they complain about beetroot.

Coming up for air

Sometimes work is all-consuming.  Raising your head can be like coming up for air after a long swim underwater, or like the first taste of food after a long illness.

Today I was given the gift of a spare couple of hours in between enormous, heavy, challenging jobs.  First I looked around in amazement at the world which had carried on around me without my noticing.  Somehow I had fed the boy and the husband and made sure everyone had clean pants.  (Though I fear I’d done little more than that.)  Somehow the broad beans had continued growing and nothing in the greenhouse had quite died.  Neighbours were going about their business.  The sun was even shining.

After a long moment of wondering what to do, I wandered out into that sunshine.  I picked a bowl full of broad beans for tea, and another of salad leaves.  I foraged among the forest of pea plants to find the few that were swelling enough to give the boy a treat.  I breathed for what seemed like the first time in weeks.

When work feels like an illness, you’ve been doing too much.  How many times do we have to learn the lesson that we can only do so much?

What a joy it is, though, to feel that sense of waking up, to see and appreciate the home and the people around you almost as if for the first time.  It’s a gift that almost makes the hard work worthwhile.  It may take some time, but balance is beginning to return.

It’s all magic

I am a Luddite and a Philestine.  I don’t know one end of an internet cable from another.  (Or are they both the same?  Maybe there’s no such thing as an internet cable.)

Yet I can sit in my garden with my laptop (look, no wires), take pictures with my phone and email them to  myself (because I haven’t quite figured out how to download them, but I am Mistress of the Workaround), and drop them into the blog for you to see.

Look!

home office in garden with laundry peas2 tomato overcrowding

It’s magic.  Magic, I tell you.  Where do they keep the fairy dust?

Pardon me while I catch up with the rest of civilisation.