Every now and again, something stirs me to remember the feeling at the beginning of a holiday. Setting off on a journey at sunrise or even earlier, or the very first glimpse of the sea…..
Now that I don’t go far from home, a sense of adventure is something I need to cultivate. The remarkable thing is that seemingly boring or irritating tasks become quite different when you see them as adventures. Unpacking and re-packing a carton of cardboard boxes with my husband this morning became an exploration of skills (or lack thereof) and an exercise in letting go of my desire to do everything my way and investigate his approach instead. As an adventure it was hardly bold or colourful, but it was fun. I’m nowhere near as adventurous as I’d like to be.
(Part 1 of this series of posts started here if you haven’t read it already.)
Standing at the doorway of a new year and just about to put a foot forwards, I realise there are certain words that I wish for myself during the journey through the next twelve months. Pausing and reflecting (a good time to do this, today, with a pale grey light in the window and the sound of rain on the glass) I know there are things I want to embrace and other things that I want to let go. These are not resolutions exactly, nor even intentions – they’re more in the way of senses, feelings, perhaps ways of being, and to write about them or try to explain them in anything more than a whisper would be to bring them under a harsh spotlight that will not help me remember them any better.
I don’t set goals. But I like the idea of way-markers, or torches to light a gloomy bit of path, or firesides to come home to.
So here for the next few days I’ll share a handful of these – whatever you like to call them. They’re like one-word letters addressed to myself, to carry with me on the next bit of the journey, and at the end of the year I’ll be able to spread them out and look at them, and gaze at the way I’ve come, and ponder….
It’s almost exactly 4 years since I started writing these posts, and in that time of tramping about outside, watching the seasons and recording what I see and feel and think about, there has been change – a transition.
I remember saying that I try to look closely at something every day, and that although it would be better to draw it, it’s more likely that I’d take photographs. Well, somewhere along the way, drawing has moved back centre-stage; I’m now far more likely to whip out my sketchbook rather than my camera, and the difference (to me, anyway) has been remarkable, and in some ways quite unexpected.
It’s not that I don’t still love taking photographs – I do – but sketching has unlocked something that has nothing to do with photography, or with words, and opened up a world of possibilities. Since I can scribble a very high speed sketch almost as quickly as I could get out my camera and shoot, I now know that I can respond to a place or a person or whatever catches my eye with my whole attention, and discover how I really see it and feel about it. It makes a connection that is hard to imagine happening any other way.
I joined the worldwide community of Urban Sketchers about a year ago, and this really put wind in my sails; it’s wonderful to be able to share and enjoy looking at what other sketchers are doing all over the world, and I’ve been stretching and honing my rusty drawing skills and learning more every day. I’ve discovered the adventure of going out with a sketchbook is quite different from appearing in public with a camera; people are friendly and interested, they mostly smile and talk, and in some cases people have told me they are simply delighted to see someone drawing. (I have to say I don’t know why this is and I find it rather baffling, but I don’t question it!)
Change is a constant thing, and I realise that to be able to move willingly and happily from one thing to the next is to be happy. It’s a continual state of transition – something I’m beginning to understand, and something that, now and again, I’m beginning to be able to acheive…..
I’ve been doing some maintenance work on my phone, deselecting unnecessary processes, clearing out apps I don’t use, and emptying the cache (that always sounds alarming, like discarding buried treasure but it turns out it’s more like clearing the garage of junk). I even bought it a new battery, reflecting how nice it would be to install a new one in me, but since this isn’t viable I thought that at least if my phone worked better I might feel invigorated by proxy. My sense of wellbeing has become entwined with the performance, good or otherwise, of my computer and my phone.
But then I’ve suspected for quite a while now that my brain is afflicted with malware and viruses (quite apart from the actual organic maladies it suffers from), and this morning my suspicions were confirmed when I read this, and laughed (and if you read it now, the rest of this will make more sense).
Well, I can see now what the trouble is – like my phone, I have a whole string of applications that run all the time in the background without my realising it. Here’s a few of them: Gloom 5.0 is a general depressant, designed to come up with negative scenarios to fit any situation. Crisis Predictor 3.0 throws up notifications warning of potential disasters several times a day, and Wot If? Aaah! is a creative tool supplying imaginary experiences to challenge my ability to remain calm. I never knowingly installed any of these but can’t find a way of uninstalling them.
However, I’ve now got a collection of programs to turn to which can reverse the damage and neutralise the system. In time, I feel sure I’ll be able to flush the unwanted items completely but in the meantime I can run a meditation app called Back Om, a calming and centering experience that never fails to bring me quietly into presence. Then there’s support at itmightneverhappen.org which reminds me that, well, that horrible thing might never happen and why am I imagining it anyway; and opening Go Flow 2.0 is a really good exercise in letting go, releasing my grip on anything I might currently be clinging to and allowing myself to slip effortlessly through time as everything changes from moment to moment.
I’ve given myself shortcuts to all of these and set up timed alerts to remind me to use them. I’m feeling better already – and maybe it’s a coincidence but my phone is working better too.
Many thanks to the originators of the post I linked to (which is far funnier than what I’ve written), at http://imgbuddy.com/ and to https://otrazhenie.wordpress.com for re-blogging it.
Laughter is the best medicine!
And note: the apps and websites above are my own invention and as far as I know, they don’t exist. (Or do they?)
We are at the end of summer now, poised right at the edge of autumn.
The trees here are still green for the most part, but I know it won’t be long before the September sun will lose its warmth and all this sensuous clothing of greenery will be changing into autumn gold before being whipped off in the wind, or shed quietly, a few leaves at a time, everything gradually being stripped bare for the nakedness of winter. Until then, for a short while, everything hangs in the balance. I can feel the change coming, and I take ever more deep breaths of this season’s resonance and its glow. And I watch, and wait.
But of course there is change already; as each moment slips by nothing is quite the same, and it’s tempting to want to hang on to the warmth, the colour and the light for a while longer. As I stand under the beech trees now with the afternoon sun low in the sky and still warm on my back, I can hear a robin singing. I don’t want this season to end, but at the same time I know that trying to grasp and cling on to it will give me nothing but pain. What I really want is the freedom that comes from passing willingly from one moment to the next, from one season to another, being present in whatever comes.
I look forward now to what comes. Not because it will be better, or different, but because I recognise now that what matters is just to be there and to be present, in each moment. And in the next moment, and the next, and the next.
This blog was not planned, the way a website would be. It grew out of personal ramblings and compilations of photographs and sprouted like an untended garden, unevenly and without a clear focus until I began to recognise it for what it was. Only then did I start to publish posts, and its unstructured beginnings are still evident today.
Time for a little housekeeping. Jamie Wallace at her Suddenly Marketing blog wrote a post recently called How to write an About page – 5 steps to get it right that really got me thinking. Even though I am not marketing anything I recognise the need for focus and clarity, and for the courtesy of offering enough information for a reader to feel welcomed. It’s also nice when you visit a blog or a website to be given a bit of orientation and a sense of what else is there. This sort of clearly thought out advice is just what I need from time to time and I pondered long about it before making a few additions to my About page.
Quite a few posts that I’ve read recently have been about goals; how to choose them, set them, organise them; how and when to review them, and how to learn from them. Dianne McKinnon recently posted a delightful update on her Wildly Improbable Goals for 2012, and it got me thinking.
Life is full of paradoxes. I’ve often noticed that when I’m working on something new or trying to solve a problem, the first attempt is quite often the best – or at the very least, has things about it that are better than all my subsequent efforts. This can be very annoying, because it feels like I’m going backwards rather than forwards, and that I’m not learning anything from all my efforts.
But I’m beginning to understand why this is so, or at least I think I am. It’s to do with doing, and non-doing.
I’m reading a book by Jon Kabat-Zin called Wherever You Go, there You Are, a book filled with such luminous, startling truth that every now and then I find myself putting it down and just staring into space, awash with the realisation of the obvious that somehow eludes me most of the time. I quote:
‘The joy of non-doing is that nothing else needs to happen for this moment to be complete. The wisdom in it, and the equanimity that comes out of it, lie in knowing that something else surely will.
It reeks of paradox. The only way you can do anything of value is to have the effort come out of non-doing and to let go of caring whether it will be of use or not.’
I’ve always known this to be true, but I’ll probably never stop needing reminders. I need to relax into more and more moments of ‘non-doing’ every day – because I know that paradoxically, more will come out of this than if I drive my actions by concentrated thought – or by caring too much about the outcome. So why not relax a little more, play a little more, stay still in the happiness of the moment a bit more often, secure in knowing that this is just simply what I most need to do?