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Garden meditation

No need to remember a technique,

fire up an app

or take a class.

Just go into the garden

and do what needs to be done.

A bit of weeding,

tidying the greenhouse,

watering tomatoes and cucumbers,

(there is always something

that needs attention).

Simply do the work,

at its own pace.

When the time is right,

find a spot to rest,

perhaps with a cup of tea.

Thoughts come,

(summer fresh butterflies dance between flowers)

thoughts go,

(there are a lot of dewy cobwebs around)

thoughts come,

(the asters are starting to flower)

thoughts go,

(I can still hear the swallows).

If these stones could talk

‘Cloth ears’, my mum used to call me

when I got selectively deaf about an instruction,

or when I was absorbed with my nose in a book.

‘Oi, cloth ears!’. I’m talking to you.’

And it’s only recently I realized

where the phrase came from.

Mill workers, deafened by the roar of machinery ,

young ears, damaged beyond repair,

cotton cloth in exchange for hearing.

I am thinking of all this

as I trudge up the steep slopes of Ingleborough

on a path made of old stone slabs

taken, I’m told, from the local mills

when they closed down,

repurposed, protecting

feet from bog, and bog from feet.

For a moment my feet

connect with those

who trod these stones

over a century ago.

Day after day,

year after year,

toiling at the loom.

The wind sighs and a raven croaks,

the path twists through a soundscape,

that they could only imagine.

If these stones could talk
The path up Ingleborough
A view from the top
Looking towards home

Painting outside my comfort zone

Star Wars painting

This is the result of offering to do a painting for my 7 year old nephew. It was a bit of a challenge, nice to try something different.

I did ask if he’d prefer birds or flowers instead of spaceships shooting one another, of course he said no!

Flowers

Come, see real
flowers
of this painful world.

Bashō

A selection of my favourate flower photos (and a fern) taken since March, either from my garden or taken on my daily local walk during lockdown.

Uncertainty

Recently, I find myself
paralyzed by uncertainty,
weighed down by the weight 
of my own
expectations.

These really are strange times. Even though here in the UK the lockdown is gradually lifting, there is so much uncertainty about what will happen next. With the virus, with the global economy, with life as we know it.

I am actually finding this stage harder to deal with than the full lockdown! So many ‘what ifs’. So many parts of life that might not get back to normal for a long, long time.

The strangeness of having family or friends to visit, so wonderful to see them, but they have to sit in the garden (in the rain on one occasion!) and I have to think twice about offering them a cup of tea.

The sense of almost-back-to-normal when I meet with friends for walks, and the difficulty of remembering to walk 2 metres apart when we have 3 months worth of catching up to do!

Skyping family and friends on the other side of the world and wondering when I’ll actually be able to see them again – could it be months? Years?

Hearing that I won’t be able to go back to the office 6-12 months. I really like working from home, and I normally work from home 3 days a week anyway, but I’m starting to feel a bit isolated without my weekly trips to the office to chat (I mean work).

Uncertainty and worry over work, the pandemic, the economy, the future…it is paralysing! It stops me from doing what I need to do and what I want to do.

It stops me from writing.

It stops me from painting.

It makes me agonise over decisions – or not make decisions at all.

It makes me want to lie on the sofa and scroll through the news AGAIN, as if the answer is there somewhere if only I scroll further.

The uncertainty is not going to go away anytime soon.

I’m the one who is going to have to change, to learn to live with it.

Adjust my expectations about what I can achieve during this time. Find a way to move forward, to make choices, even when I don’t know what is ahead. Enjoy what I can do instead of focusing on the things I can’t do. Simply enjoy the summer.


What about you? How are you coping?

The Road Not Taken

Recently I was writing a research paper for my coaching course. I’d picked the topic ‘Decision Making, Intuition and Body Awareness’, something that interests me a lot. I was mulling over how I make decisions, and how I know when a decision is the right decision, when the poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost came to mind, the poem that ends

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

In the poem, making that choice, the decision to take the grassy, less travelled path, made ALL the difference. There is a note of regret at the end, the sigh, as if perhaps the decision didn’t quite work out as planned. Or maybe it did, I don’t know.

Imagine facing a decision in life with that mindset. That the choice is so important, so life changing, that once it is made it cannot be undone. There can be no backtracking, no wandering along one path for a while to see where it goes, no returning to the wood on another day to try out the other road. It’s an all or nothing decision, and it makes ALL the difference.

Perhaps you don’t need to imagine it. Perhaps this is how you think of decisions. It’s often how I think of them.

A decision weighs heavily on me and it feels like there is only one right and wrong outcome…but how to choose?

It’s easy at this point to become overwhelmed by the decision, the pros and cons, the associated emotions.   It all churns around in my conscious mind and I get stuck and don’t take action. 

Sound familiar?

What would happen if we looked at an important decision with lightness, with an open mind, with an attitude of exploration and curiosity? In the real world, we have a choice. We could take a map, and figure out where the paths go to before we choose which one to walk. We could visit the wood multiple times and try out all the paths. We could knock on the door of the cottage at the entrance to the wood and ask advice about which is the nicest path. We could walk one route for years and then cut across country to get back to the other path. Or we could blaze our own trail through the wood instead of following someone else’s route.

How would your life change if you took a lighter approach to decision making?


A funny thing…I have just realised, while googling the poet Robert Frost (about whom I know very little other than this one poem) that I have walked past his statue many times at Amherst College, where I go for summer tai chi workshops. The statue is in a very beautiful spot on campus, and there is often a small bird sitting on the poet’s head.


The Road Not Taken

By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Filling the well

Inspiration

seeps through

the cracks

like rain

on drought parched

soil.


Today, I sat down to do some work and I ended up taking a tour of some of my favourite blogs. I visited a Dutch garden filled with flowers and kindness, and followed the first post-lockdown journey of a canoe down Dutch canals. I read about walks in Lancashire, not far from where I live, photos of wide-open spaces, flowers and birds. I read about a coyote, emaciated and struggling in the desert in the USA, and the writer’s response to that struggle. I was taken step by step through the artistic process of collagraph printing meadow flowers and grasses (by an artist in Yorkshire whose courses I’d like to take when face to face courses eventually re-open).

I have been so busy recently that I have not had much time to visit these blogs, or to do lots of other unproductive (but enjoyable and inspiring) things. Actually, I don’t like the term ‘unproductive’. So many so-called unproductive things are actually the starting point for creative work.

I like the idea of ‘filling the well’ which comes from Julia Cameron’s excellent book ‘The Artist’s Way’.

In order to create, we draw from our inner well. This inner well, an artistic reservoir, is ideally like a well-stocked trout pond. We have to maintain this artistic ecosystem. If we don’t…our well is apt to become depleted, stagnant or blocked. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them – to restock the trout pond, so to speak. I call this process filling the well. Filling the well involves the active pursuit of images to refresh our artistic reservoirs. In filling the well, think magic. Think delight. Think fun. Do not think duty. Do not do what you should do. Do what intrigues you, explore what interests you: think mystery, not mastery.

Julia Cameron

For me reading, walking, canoeing, being in nature, being with friends, gardening, cooking, listening to music, visiting a museum or art gallery, travel, walking on a beach, these are all ways to fill the well and get my creative juices flowing again.

How do you fill the well?


And now to do some actual work and tick something off my to-do list 😉

Career, work life balance and creativity coaching – my coaching page is now live!

I’ve put it here on my blog for now, it may stay here or it might move to a separate website, I don’t know yet. As long as it doesn’t interfere with my ability to post poems and other posts whenever the inspiration takes hold, then it will stay here and this will morph into my coaching / writing / art website. Let’s see what happens.

The focus of the next few months for me is all about growing my coaching business, now that I have a little bit more time to take on more clients. I’m not sure if it’s the best time to be doing this, in the midst of a pandemic, but I’ll find out!

A favour

I would like to start to spread the word about my coaching services beyond my immediate networks.

If you know anyone who might be looking for a career change, wanting to improve their work life balance, to have more time for creative projects or generally looking for a new direction in life, then please could you share the link to the coaching page (https://lifeinthefreshair.com/career-work-life-balance-and-creativity-coaching/) with them.

And of course, if you are interested in coaching, I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks very much!