Friday, 30 September 2011

Of Autumn Mists and Mindfulness

I am in love with Autumn more so this year than any other.  Challenging though it is becoming in many ways I know only good can come of this.  The season which itself symbolises change, creates space and inspiration for change within us all, if we only hear and answer the call.
This year I answer.  If I did not live in the middle of the city I would step outside my back door and shout it out loud, but my heart and soul shout it to the cosmos anyway.

Thick wet mist covers the common, cows move through it mysteriously, hips and berries are washed of the dust of dryer days shinning like rubies and Californian poppies in my garden still somehow manage to unfurl tight buds of fiery orange with it's moisture.

Gathering, simmering and bottling - berries oozing with promise of winter health.  The first sloes have come easily from their branches already, ahead of their traditional time but I had to stop and remind myself that everything flowered and fruited early this year as summers start sooner than once before.  Not wanting to miss the opportunity of the liqueur dream that is Sloe Gin I thought to hell with tradition and listened to my diurnal core and instinct instead.  Happily my first batch is brewing and having started early there's promise of plenty more to come!

Mindfulness, I have decided, is going to be the key to my self improvement; to the re-membering of the woman I was meant to be and most importantly to maintaining her once she is found again.  The journey will be ongoing.

And as life has a habit of doing, my love of the season - of rose hips in particular and the sanctuary that is our local Buddhist centre wove themselves together last week as the shrines were decorated with boughs of those bright red rubinous jewels. 

I never expected this journey of self improvement to be easy.  Some days it feels like it is, maintaining the positive approach to life rumbles along nicely lulling me into a false sense of security.  But the old adage of one step forwards two steps back is just as often true.  I am taking on a lot with all the changes that are falling into place, but necessary and unavoidable it is, fail I will not.  

The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course I am participating in practically thrusts one hour of meditation and mindfulness practice on you a day; sounds like a lot but quite honestly having this enforced is the biggest blessing I could have asked for.  Long have I yearned to meditate this regularly and for this long but it is too easy to let oneself off in favour of cleaning the kitchen or slouching in front of a film and calling it necessary or relaxation.  Now I can immerse myself in a philosophy I have long identified with, perhaps if I had done this at the outset, twelve years ago I would not be in the troubled place I'm in now.
My doctor has encouraged me to be totally open with my children and she assures me that although they have witnessed me screaming like a banshee and felt my temper far too often, showing them courage and the strength to make such vast changes is truly the most valuable thing I can offer them now.  I spare them details but share those basic facts regularly.  They are forgiving beyond all measure, when I flip then as quickly apologize and try to reconnect they let me.  Humbling.

Early nights, I mean 8.30p.m early nights are helping.  A 5.30a.m  rise does not matter when I've already slept 9 hours, though I am frequently blighted by insomnia and nightmares.
Bathing with my girl mid afternoon skin to skin and her morning ritual of skin cuddles are opportunities to reconnect to those parts of me I grew and birthed, now the centre of my universe.

Mindfulness is a hard one to crack on a daily basis when I'm used to the incessant slightly psychotic commentary and chatter that goes on up there.  I realised how sick my body has become with stress, the physical symptoms I didn't even consider as connected before.  I read today that mindfulness is not removing oneself from ones problems but instead getting much closer to them.  I feel this.  In making the right moves to overcome the obstacles I have created I am coming closer to them and honestly it is slightly terrifying.  It is like getting closer to myself - okay it is not the me I envisaged being but non the less this is part of who I am right now, I must accept this to move forwards.  My heart goes out to anyone else who has ever suffered from stress, anxiety, depression or variations thereof.; the general miss-perception is that we're flaky and a bit pathetic, but it's a lot deeper and more confused than this, I am only glad I am addressing this now, before I'm thirty rather than in 20 years time by which time I would have many more regrets.  And for this reason I have decided to share my journey here.  I don't want to over shadow the positive things I do do with my bairns but in my original mission statement I said I'd record my journey through motherhood and this has become part of it, it could be the most important thing I do for us.  If I can help anyone else reading this who is perhaps in a similar position or is currently in denial as I have been for many years then I'll have loved it forwards.  I am going to add a new tab though so there is some separation, for myself as much as the children.

But for today let me summarise the joys this season inherently brings .... things that have warmed my Autumn Heart;

Making the Mabon Loaf


My garden that just keeps on giving





Fire of autumn in the trees

The old lady in the shop who told me I was stunning

My boys obvious delight at the sight of two unbelievable puddings made by my 87 year old grandad for Sunday lunch at the weekend (and they were!  Grandad we will be making you a Desert making Rosette very soon I feel sure of it!)

Watching my Mama bake a cake with my girl

Watching my little sister (not so little at 15 anymore) take my kiddies out to the park so I could chat with mama.

The abundance of Rose hip syrup now in my cupboards

The cats being in more now the weather is colder and their fluffy fluffy fur.

Paint swatches blue tacked to walls

Yoga

Meditation

Smokers Delight - the Nightmares on Wax variety.

Erykah Badu

Excitement as I will be reunited with old housemates this coming weekend

My boy's recently found helpful streak ... clearing the table with me after dinner without even being asked!

My boy wearing my favourite of his tops, hippy grandad shirts, because he knows how much I love them.

Charity shopping with my girl.

An unexpected reminder of our summer holiday arriving through my front door just now - photo's from a friend

Low Autumn Sun

A Peaceful House

Tatty old tie-dye tops I refuse to throw out, probably should mend them though

Community community community!  The Mama's I am meeting in the playground at school and the unexpected connections we share - friendships a-kindling.

Creating a sacred space in my bedroom for writing and mindfulness practice.

Poetry.


I feel this has been a self indulgent post today, but writing is healing so forgive me!

Brightest autumn blessings.


X

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Firsts

It was his first day at school. That big moment I've been apprehensious about for so long; the moment my boy goes off on adventure without me, finds a little more independence. I crafted some keep sakes for him - a badge and a friendship bracelet with hematite woven in and I made him the most enormous chocolate cake whilst Gaia decorated a card for him. Not really one to look too hard to find excuses and reasons for festivities and celebrations, last weekend became just that. We hung bunting and ate his chosen meal by candle light and did the things he wanted to do.

He was quietly excited - only giving this away with a silent cheshire cat grin. It is luxury to have an extra hour in which to get ready - the children even had time to bath and play and everything was much more relaxed and happy than the usual work/nursery day scrum. This new rhythm might not be so bad after all me thinks.

                                       Ready to go!


I welled up a little on the bike journey there but I think having done the emotional bit over the last few months it worked out nicely that I held it together when we arrived and didn't project any of my own apprehension just genuine excitement and pride. 

 
He proudly identified his peg in the cloakroom and hung his bag. I remembered my first school peg, my first school bag. I bit my lip as we walked to the classroom and placed his fruit I had prepared and water in the baskets. Then that was it, parents were encouraged to leave swiftly and so I walked away with my small girl (now desperate to start school too!) on my hip, steeling a couple of glances at Zander from windows round the classroom and then we went and did the things we usually do on a monday but feeling like perhaps we left something important, like a limb or a piece of our hearts, behind.

I'm so proud of him, so excited that he is excited and how refreshing to see all the children arriving in their own comfortable, familiar, individual clothes. I think allowing children to wear their own clothes is important, rather than enforce a forced and phony equality. They all looked so chilled out and I knew that though this isn't comparable to Steiner School and other alternative educations, it is a good second best. And so many parents with older children I already knew turning up, so many I knew from local playgroups and even work. I did not feel alone. At once I was excited for myself as well as him - joining the school run fraternity, suddenly a whole new community is on hand for me to immerse myself in and share support and companionship with. Maybe this is just what I needed.

He seems a little more grown up now - it's that mystery element - he has a life outside the family now, one he can invite us into if he likes, we piece together a picture of his day from the snippets he gives us. My girl seems a little more grown up for going to the childminder without her brother, having her own special day to tell about. But I didn' stop to think how this change would affect her; as the summer holidays ended not only did she loose Zander she lost her close friends, our childminders children Matthew and Sophie as they started school too. She searched for them and cried when I left her, I curse myself for not having seen it from her perspective before hand, too wrapped up in my own and Zanders perspective.


I'm enjoying my half days with him - we've needed an opportunity to reconnect since Gaia was born.  It will be good; at least I'm certainly creating lasting memories and what follows will make us chuckle for years to come ...

I had planned an idyll of a day for tuesday, the weather held, september at it's best.
Walking familiar routes through the woods but with only each other to focus on this time, it seemed everything was drenched in timeless sepia sunbeams and I felt the bounty that is autumn in my heart. Gathered acorns, feathers and some windfalls to make apple creatures out of.

 And an early picnic 




'Lets do one with us kissing' he said. 

 'I think there have been fairies here'....he said.



I'm glad we enjoyed that hour of tranquil peace before Calamity Jane here had time to turn the day upside down!

I got greedy ... just one more windfall for our collection to get creative with, just one more. And you know when you wish you could have just made one split second decision completely differently that would have changed everything ...

                                                          I wish I had not put my foot into the scruffy grass and nettle ensemble the ground was wearing, I thought in my long boots and leggings I could handle whatever the nettles threw at me so I was expecting some slight discomfort. But when my legs started tingling all over, then the tingling became painful and irritated, angry and relentless I thought ....nope not nettles, maybe ..... mosquitoes - so quickly I jumped away, but it got worse so I ran into the orchard clearing and to my horror I looked down to find myself covered in wasps, I looked like the guy in the cider advert with the beard of bees ... from the waist down they were everywhere. Hundreds, I kid you not! Attached to my clothes like some kind of ferocious velcro. They were inside my boots under my skirt, on top of my skirt, in my leggins and would you believe it - in my pants too!

So what would you do if you stepped in a wasps nest? I've never been stung in my 29 years earthside but today was my first time and boy did it make up for each of those 29 years without. I have concluded that a nest must have come down in the high winds we've had and I went and put my foot in it.

I'll tell you what I did and it's funny - my mind worked quicker than it ever has before, fight or flight kicked in and I knew instantly after directing Zander to run away from me and stand under a visible but distant tree I had to strip off, everything but camisole top and pants. I'd have taken the lot off if I'd had to and I was shaking dead wasps out the leggins days after! I knew I was stung very badly but I had too much adrenalin rushing round keeping courage and a strong head for Zanders sake to notice my pain much. I knew I had to get us home - a 25 minute bike ride so I could not afford to succumb to self pity.
Poor bear had been stung three times but was in hysterical shock at my peril, I couldn't calm him as I cowered nearly naked under a tree with him, trying to calm him and cook up the next part of my plan.

I'm not sure I've ever seriously considered guardian angels but check this out; at that moment as I realised how odd it would look to anyone who stumbled across us, someone did, and what else but a guardian angel would say it's ok she was there to help. She scooped Zander up and cuddled him hard, soothed and reassured him, praised him for his bravery. And after stole back my skirt and emptied my boots with trepidation and paranoia she took us back to the scout hut where the Steiner forest Kindergarten meet. The smokey fire saw that no wasps bothered us again and healing cream soothed and reassured. They did not hurry us and walked back through the woods with us to our bike. How valuable for us both to experience such altruism in motion, we are blessed for her anonymous kindness (in the madness I forgot to even ask her name) and she gave such good holistically, spiritually sensative advice.
I didn't feel any pain until I got home and insatiable itching saw me loose most of a good nights sleep. It also saw me sloshing a whole bottle of vinegar over my legs at various intervals during the night! returning to bed smelling like a chip shop.

This last week was always going to be an unknown quantity with all the changes starting to take place but I've felt a strange grounding from it all - perhaps because my focus is totally on my family for a change.
And as always there are so many little things that have nourished and lifted my heart this week ...

Digging out old baby photo's of Zander and being reminded of the glory of it all....





Spending one on one time with each of the kids.

Gathering autumn store from the hedgerows - Rosehips, Haws and Elderberries for rich winter vitamin syrup. Standing over the pot as it all simmers, earthy aromas mingle with the cheeky pinch of cinnamon and seasonally warming cloves I added. The rich claret colour of the finished product. And best of all - my babies love it! A spoon a day should keep colds away.



Stumbling across dragon boat races on the river running through the meadows nearby as we foraged blackberries. Another little nook of festival spirit.



Charity shops, charity shops, charity shops ... I'm in love!
                                                                                              ...... with Chai too. (and my little Chai Walla Gaia.)

Taking Tea in the garden with my babies

Raindrops on divinely scented roses



The bounty of my garden - the calendula just keeps on going!



Reconnecting with my breath.

Getting over significant hurdles ...
                                                        Passing my car theory test
                                                                                                     Having difficult conversations.

Long hot mid-afternoon bubble baths.

Much More Chai

Butternut squash ripening in the veg patch.

Climbing, swinging, sliding and spinning to the sound of a Samba band in one of the parks last sunday morning.






Afternoon fires in the garden with Zander

Meeting storm troopers at ASDA and seeing my boy quietly and shyly betraying his joy.


There are more firsts coming with the new week ... Zander stays for lunch at school for the first time ... I get to make packed lunch :)

And my first session of a Mindfulness course I'm doing at the Buddhist centre, will be a pleasure to return to that sanctuary of calm.
As Zander emerged from toddlerdom it's as if we got complacent about firsts. They blended in with one another as his speech became so eloquent we noticed new words less. I started to take it for granted he could do all these marvellous things like put his shoes on, dress himself and brush his teeth. As he became more like us I stopped praising those little every day achievments like I used to. But we're still notching them up ...

                                                            today he carefully made his own sandwiches for the first time;0)

Love & Light X





Friday, 9 September 2011

Seasons Of The Soul









For traditional Pagans, Samhain as I understand it, was the beginning of the end of the old year. It shouldn’t be suprising then that as soon as the first morning of September dawns not only does the air smell and feel different but something clicks inside me; processes of reflection begin, life becomes a mirror and naturally I start re-evaluating things much more than usual. 




Up and until this, my 29th year Earthside, I've found this irksome, untimely and quite frankly an intrusion thinking it would be better placed around December 31st, but you know what; despite trying my best I've never been able to sit down at the December/January changing of the guard to make resolutions and reflect, always felt a little awkward.  It always wants to happen in September - month of beauty and colour. So this year I'm leaning into it rather than resisiting with all my might, because I believe something very ancient and celtic dwelling deep within is trying to awaken me further to old and natural rhythms. Rhythms which have been supressed by society for many years but can now manifest within our family and with any luck my children will grow up with them being second nature and not feeling the push and pull of social norms versus old intrinsic ways.

Things are coming to a head, it is begun, the planets aligned (well I know Pluto is retrograde and big change always seems to come as planets double back on themselves, last year it was Mars that had a lot to answer for!) I am prepared and bracing myself for what I hope will be the biggest period of self improvement I've ever embarked on.
In this space on this blog I'm recording the happiness that we have in our lives, but it would be dishonest if I pretended it is always like this. My darling children - I hope you never remember my volatile unsettled deeply troubled ways. I hope even if you do remember, vaguely or otherwise, that I can also give you reason to remember a zeplin effort at turning things around.

I have been granted some space - headspace, breathing space, a pause in routine and and a break from obligations to address long overdue issues. I hear life begins at 30, well that gives me roughly 4 months to make some good headway for all our sakes.
I could run through popular cliches and write dark angsty poetry to torture myself with over and over (and I have) but I feel this time ~ now ~ could be used more wisely, more positively. I think inevitably there are going to be dark moments, dark prose that needs to be penned but I know well the demons of my past and I need not pay them any attention anymore.
 
 
 
So I address my soul:
                                       What is it that you need?
                                                                                 Comfort and nourishment comes the immediate reply.




So basic, but often hard to find time for.  I felt many uncomfortable feelings yesterday after speaking to my GP; numb, empty but oh so full, out of breath, winded, vulnerable, emotionally volatile, unable to eat, exhausted, ashamed and sick. But I felt a relief too, that this dis-ease can end, and I don't have to do it on my own, starting now.
I feel my soul craves music; pure and beautiful, meditation, yoga, fresh air & forest walks, artisic expression, writing, dancing, connecting with earth energies and guidance. 
It astonishes me to think this space was born of a flipant comment in an email two days a go and to think I am blessed that I have someone there to reflect things back at me until I see the sense in the madness.  More and more I have reason to believe that indeed we are made from the same clay.

I have to chuckle though and maybe it's a good sign that I can still see the humour in life; I can be such a calamity even amidst peace and space - I managed to destroy the computer yesterday morning as I sat down to write, with help from the cat I might add, then I managed to set my hair on fire as I relaxed back into a deep midafternoon bath surrounded by white candles. Only I could manage that!

So somethings won't change but as the seasons of the year inevitably will, so will the seasons of my soul. If I am coming out of a long dark metaphorical winter then I have a glorious spring and summer to look forward to in the coming years.
Over the coming months I will reflect, consider, process and re-member, re-learn and re-create. And once cerebral yarn is untangled I hope I can gather enough inspiration, hopes and confidence to tide me through natures winter, just as i'll be gathering berries for liquer, cordials, syrups and pies!

See - the wheel keeps on turning. I do like this perpetual motion, I find it comforting, rhythmically reassuring – it’s the same every year you could literally set your clock by it and when there’s so much flux in this modern era creating tension and stress, a good natural grounding is helpful.

Blessed be. X

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Simplicity

As I opened my rucksack at work this morning momentarily I could not place the scent that issued from within, then I hunkered further into the scarf wrapped around my neck, now I can place it ... bonfires, I like to smell of a good bonfire!

A reminder of our simple, happy holiday. Me, my babies, their Daddy and I. Through the drudgery of today I can still smell free spirit – even over the synthetic smell of air con and computers that never sleep and I can’t help but wonder that if life is what you make it and I create all my own situations (right?) then in theory I could have the life I dream of …

I've been daydreaming all day - of simplicity, community, old ways and country air. Why? It can only be the inspiration of a little holiday away from the city and the concrete jungle to a place where I can't even be bothered to find my phone so that I can tell the time. A place where if the sun starts going down then it must be bedtime, when it rises, we do too. It doesn't matter if it's midday or not - if we're hungry we'll eat. And my children taught me that it doesn't matter how cold or overcast it is the Beach MUST be enjoyed at every opportunity!

The North Norfolk coast is beautiful, I guess you could say it's one of our sacred places, much visited, many memories.   It is so close that it doesn't make sense to go further on a shoe string of time and money.

The great British summer saw us off to a soggy start - it rained terrentially just as we got the fly sheet up and the kids reluctantly bundled inside whilst the perfectionist in me stayed outside re adjusting pegs and lines until I was looking like a drowned rat.  Its a good job though as we took a battering but it's nothing that could dampen spirits.

Inside our dry bubble was that cosyness that comes from being tucked up inside as the rain pelts down outside.  

My sister loves the winter for this reason, I don't quite share the same enthusiasm but I understand what she means; I used to get the same feeling on long, dark, rainy car journeys as a child - warm, dry safe and with the most important people in my life. I am thankful that I have those things and now it is my turn to nurture that same cosy security for my little ones.



 

The thunderous sound of the waves crashing this beach of large pebbles was disconcerting for my bears so we kept our distance and intead little excavators set to work making castles at the base of sandstone cliffs and caves.


I love this one of Cliff




I am utterly in love with this shot.
And this ...









And a warm fire to warm cockles and hearts and to reaffirm friendships ...






So, THINGS THAT WARMED MY HOLIDAY HEART (and in no particular order, just a montage of thoughts exactly as they came) ...


Non-time (always!)
My boys Cheshire Cat grin and giggles of obvious joy at getting onto the wet gloopy sand for the first time




Seeing my two babies snuggled up in their blanketted becushioned, paddling pool nest (innovative mama!)
More campfires...

My man taking up his place in his poncho by the fire, book in hand stopping to wrestle the children when their incesant scrambling and clambering eliminates any chance of a peaceful read!
My boy eventually finding natural rhythm in the evenings, just chillin' and chattin, oh and lots of giggling ...



Dreamy ...


My boy’s imagination, how I saw a rotting tree stump but he immediately saw a pixie castle.
Staying on a working farm ~ feeding the pigs spying 'naughty chickens escaped his farm' (said Gaia)

Old people who tell me how wonderful my children are
Amaretto coffees by night.
Seeing my boy care for younger children and utterly love them
Not knowing what the time is, not even caring.
Waking up with Cliff’s arm around me
Realising that snuggling up close to Cliff was the answer to getting a good nights sleep
Delving deeper into Celtic & Pagan history – getting a feeling in my heart this is my heritage.
Finding that camping rhythm
Buying the tastiest pastries and cakes from the cutest bake shop by the sea
Holding my boys hand and giving him the confidence to make friends with kids he’s never met before and the way he came to me and said ‘Mummy that little girl is so so beautiful’
My Spider-Girl
Beach combing and rock pooling; as we carefully rolled and heaved rocks aside crabs scuttled and transulcent barely visible  tiddlers tiddled away, sea snails seemed reluctant to great us.
 

Our pockets always weighing heavy full of stones and shells on the way back from the beach, our socks full of sand, our bodies full of positive ions.


In the days since we arrived home I've gradually emptied these pockets and those bags and to my great joy keep on finding perfect reminders of our time away together...
...including the heart shaped stones my boy continues to bring me.







my girls fascination with the rainbow of beach huts standing sentinels on the beach








Zander has wanted a foam sword for ... ever! Much to his relief and joy I finally bought him one, one
for Gaia too so now they can duel each other - and thanking the Menfolk for their patient sparing a gracious loosing!

Some things, my Dad used to say, are specially to be cherished as memories and are worth more than a photo. So every time I curse myself for forgetting to pick the camera up before a day trip I remind myself of these wise words.
He is right, there is something special about a memory and something you can't refer back to anywhere other than in your head with your own specific imagination. I'm still gutted I forgot to grab it before our ride on a steam train on the Poppy Line.

A thing of beauty! Just like the Hogwarts Express and we hung our heads out of the little pull down window to catch the breeze andwhat a joy to see everyone else doing the same, I could have been a Railway Child for just a second there!


The smell of burning coal, the noise as the wheels turned with a clickety clack and the children revelled in the luxury of having our own compartment with a slidng door - more space and comfort than British rail affords it's passengers these days I might addd!


AND AS I PREPARE FOR MY BABY’S FIRST DAY AT SCHOOL …
My heart breaks a little each time I think about it. Yes, there are new things for him to discover and share with me, there are new rhythms for us all to sink into – making packed lunches, washing P.E kits, I have 50 iron on name labels to get through and my house to clean before his teacher does a home visit on wednesday!

As new adventures and stages begin I can't help but reflect inwards as a mother, this is my journey too and this is a rite of passage for me as much as him ... I am so sad that he won't be around so much during the day, my heart is heavy because babyhood and toddlerdom seemed to last forever at the time, then he turned four and I gasped and wondered where the time went. He will not be small forever, I think I thought he might.

Now I must find new ways to affirm our bond in the shorter time we will have together, that time will be ever more precious if that is possible!

I love him more than ever, I adore him, am besotted with him and stupidly I have already spilled big tears and I still have a week to go till he starts! I will be armed with tissues and good things to say to him and my baby girl on my hip for comfort as he dissapears into his classroom for the first time.


 
Life seems always to be hectic and this is why I yearn so much for a simpler, more earthy life.  But we've learnt to accept this perpetual chaos we seem to be wading through and admidst it all we ahve done some lovely things this summer.

It was important to me that I should, although predictably I am now sitting here thinking we should have done this, gone there, seen that film, made those badges. But as I am fond of telling the children ~ I am not a magician and I can't bend time ... yet ... if will power alone can bring things into being then I'm working on it.

Sweet dreams X