Crocuses

Crocuses growing in a mossy lawn

Today felt like spring and I spent most of it in the garden, tidying up, transplanting seedlings and admiring the spring flowers.

No social distancing was necessary between me and nature, which is just as well, as the robins kept breaking the 2 metre rule, hopping around my feet in search of worms.

And now I feel so much better after a day outside!

What is the connection between Bridgerton and my tai chi practice?

Like many millions of people over the last couple of months I’ve been enjoying a bit of escapism and romance, getting away from the dreary winter lockdown and into the colourful world of the netflix series Bridgerton.

If you’ve seen it, you will remember that the women wear an ever changing array of colourful dresses, waists pinched in with corsets. There is one scene of a mother exhorting a servant to lace her debutant daughter’s corset ever tighter, trussing her up ready for the marriage market. No wonder they are prone to fainting in front of handsome princes, it’s not so much about the attractiveness of the man as the fact that they can barely breathe!

Anyway, you might be wondering, what on earth does this have to do with tai chi?

A huge part of tai chi practice is about learning to relax, to let go of bodily tension. To focus awareness on the body, become aware of any tension, let it go.

Recently I’ve been focussing on my breathing as I do the tai chi form. I have realized that, although my belly is relaxed, rising on the in breath and falling on the out breath, I have a tendancy to hold my ribs and the area around my breastbone so they don’t move as much when I breathe.

If I focus for long enough on that area I feel tension, and if I let that tension go my ribs actually expand outward, creating more space inside my chest.

When I am locked in worry or anxiety or too much thinking, it’s like there are tight bands around my ribs, chest locked in place as surely as if I was wearing a corset. When this tight corset is removed with awareness and attention, there is a feeling of release, of worries and thoughts receeding, of returning to a comfortable body.

And it got me wondering. We don’t wear actual whalebone corsets any more (thankfully, both for us and for the whales!), but how many of us live within corsets of our own making? Luckily, with a bit of awareness, we can assign those corsets to the history books too.

Winter sleep

New snow blankets a wall

which is the summer home

of one of the garden slow worms.

And right now, somewhere deep

in hidden parts of the garden

slow worms are curled up,

hibernating.

Do they switch off like a computer

one cool day in autumn

and switch back on in spring,

unaware of the passing of time?

Or do they slumber,

conscious of the seeping cold,

burrowing further below rocks,

pulling leaves over like a duvet

before sinking deeper into winter sleep?

And do they dream?

Snowdrops

Snowdrops punctuate the January gloom.

Each year I am lifted by

this ordinary miracle.

I wrote this a few years ago. This year the snowdrops are even more welcome than usual.

Lockdown Days

I bob along on a stream of days

which blend and blur and

disappear

into the past.

Days without shape.

My normally tight grasp

on the calendar

slips,

and I am prone to moments

of disorientation,

wondering

‘Should I be working today?’

‘Am I supposed to be in a meeting right now?’

‘What exactly did I do last weekend?’

The future is full of haze and mirage,

the horizon obscured by fog.

More than ever,

the only thing that seems real

is this one

peaceful

ever present

moment.

Seeds

A parcel I ordered arrived today

full of vegetable seeds

and hope.


I am enjoying planning what I am going to grow this year and really looking forward to planting those seeds. Not yet though, it’s too cold. 🌨️

Word of the year

Have you seen those blog posts

suggesting that you find

an inspiring word

for the year ahead?

So far, all I can think of is

‘hibernate’.

It would be nice to sleep

until spring this year!

Signs of the light returning

The first few

white buds

of snowdrops

emerge

from frozen ground,

as lengthening

hazel catkins bring

a touch of yellow

to the hedgerows.

The evening stretches out

just a little,

and on those days when

winter cold recedes

slightly,

the birds sing

a different song,

louder,

livelier,

a prelude to spring.


It takes a while after the shortest day before I start to notice the light returning, reflected in the first few snowdrops and the changes in birdsong.

Snow, frost and silvery light have been a feature of my local walks recently. Now we are back in lockdown I’m walking the same local routes daily, and feeling grateful to live in such a beautiful part of the world.

A summer memory

This new painting was inspired by my garden, which was a sanctuary during the last lockdown.

The garden is not quite so inviting now in the wind and rain, but it’s still full of autumn colour and wildlife.

I hope this brings some colour and a memory of warm summer sun into your day!

It took a while to paint, I started at the beginning of September when these colourful flowers were still blooming, and finished last week. It got interrupted by a painting of pikachu for my nephew.

Pikachu is on his way to New Zealand. He’s taking his time, I think the post is slow because of the pandemic. I’m hoping he hasn’t got lost and that my nephew likes him when he finally arrives!