The Spaces in Between

22 November 2022

One of my favourite places to take a walk is in a wood.  A wood in summer, with the trees in full leaf can feel like there is hidden magic hidden round every corner, the sunlight shining in rays through the trees creating magical spots of light.  In the winter a wood feels more open but can still be dark as the daylight hours can often be cloudy and gloomy giving a wood an ethereal light.  The colours in the spring and autumn are always magnificent, the green haze in spring and the ever changing colour palette in autumn bringing a wood alive in more ways than one .  The spaces in a wood, the gaps between the trees are what makes a wood for me, it throws the light around giving it a special magic that changes with the seasons, a wood with trees close together is a dark foreboding place and not one I particularly like exploring.

My life has finally gone back to be being nearly as full and busy as it was pre-Covid, it has been a slow build up.  I loved the quiet that lockdowns bought me.  I enjoyed the stillness and slowing down.  I thought I could maintain that but it was not to be, I am my own worst enemy for taking on things that fill my time.  I don't, however; regret what I have taken on, the paid work, the volunteering it fills me up as much as it fills my time.  I thrive on having things to do, I don't long for a time when I have nothing to do, I prefer to direct my energies elsewhere.  What I have taken from the time of Covid is how very important time for stillness and rest are and however busy I might be I find time for this each and every day.  It does mean that some things, like writing posts on this blog get shelved for a while but that is how it has to be.  I am still writing it just takes me so much longer to get a post to the point of being able to post it, I am rather enjoying the mediative and slow process of taking time to write a post, dipping in and out as time allows.  I feel sure that it will improve my writing, time will tell.

When life is busier and there is more going on, there is so much more I could share and write about that ends up drifting by and remains in my memory without being recorded.  Life slips along wrapped up in food preparation, housework, planning, creating, spending time with friends, family, fund-raising, working and then every now and then I show up here to share snippets, the breadcrumbs that I have yet to sweep up and forget about.  It is so easy to paint a particular picture, the parts that we are comfortable sharing or the image that we want to create of ourselves online, we read about the lives of others through the lens of our own experiences which are often so different from the writers.  I am guilty of making it appear that my life is ticking along all rather wonderfully, it is like that most of the time but there are those moments when it all comes crashing down or those days when it feels like I am going backwards rather than forwards.  It is what we make of those times, those days when anything we do feels like pushing a car uphill, can we move on and put it behind us, or do we carry them around for days feeling them getting heavier and heavier, creating barriers that we can't see over.   

We had a significant day in our family this month, a rather special birthday.  We are now a three adult household, I am a parent to one adult and one child. Nothing changes but everything has.  I spent weeks putting together a memory book for his birthday, collating all the letters that I wrote to him on each of his previous seventeen birthdays some of which I published on here.  I have never been totally comfortable sharing details of my children, the names I have used for the past few years are not their real names, I debated for a long time about whether to share the letter I wrote for this eighteenth and decided on reflection not to, those details are not mine to share anymore.  As well as the letters I loved looking through eighteen years of photos looking for a selection to include in his book.  We bought our first digital camera a few weeks before he was born in November 2004, we decided at the time that as we were likely to take many more photos that we needed to make sure we organised those photos in folders on our computer.  It made looking for them so much easier, we still use cameras for almost all of our photography we only started using smart phones a couple of years ago and they are very much not the latest model with a fancy pants camera on them or a lot of storage.  My digital  SLR is usually my go to camera.

I managed to double book Alice for a weekend in February next year, this seemed utterly ridiculous given that it felt so far in advance, in reality it isn't really.  The end of the year always feels like a big landmark to me and the new year always feels so much further away than it really is, like I need the old year to be finished and done with before I can start thinking about the next one.  I always realise at about this time of year that that simply does not work and I need to get on and buy a diary.  I have tried keeping track of our goings on using electronic diaries but it does not work for me, I love the bigger picture that a paper diary gives me and have simply not found a way to replicate that satisfactorily using any electronic diary.  I keep a list of dates for the following year at the end of each diary but a list of dates is not a good way to keep track of plans, hence my double booking Alice and saying yes to something when she was already busy.  Thankfully it was easily resolved.  I spent a day filling my new diary with birthdays, festivals, lunar cycles, work meetings, and plans we have committed to, there is something rather satisfying about adding to those completely blank pages.  I don't keep a journal but my diaries are a wonderful record of what we have been doing, I often refer back to them and always keep the previous year's diary close to hand on my desk.

I started this year with an intention to walk every day that I could manage it, an intention that slipped a little as the year went on.  I have found myself circling back to that intention in the past weeks, it has quietly slipped back into my day.  It is dark at about 4.30pm here now, properly dark and I love going for a walk in the dark.  It is less stimulating and as a busy introvert that meets my needs, giving me a balance of calm and peace during a full day.  

I don't know when I will be back here again but please know I haven't gone for good I am just taking my time to bring the words and pictures together.  Thank you to all of you who drop by to visit and for all the lovely comments that you leave me, they are much appreciated.  Till next time..............

Busy (Gently) Doing

26 October 2022

It would seem that I haven't written one of these posts recently, not since early August, that feels like a lifetime away now.  The evenings are darkening here as we head to the halfway point between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice.  I am ready for this, the dark evenings always make me want to be still and restful, sitting on the sofa in front of the wood burner enjoying the warmth and cosiness that that brings.  

I didn't managed much of the rest and stillness on the sofa last week, I had four meetings on three evenings which was not great planning but as they were all meetings that I had to attend and others were organising I had little choice.  Two were for work which involved some pre-planning for me, the others I just had to turn up.  The week was completed by an assessment over a weekend, I thought I was going to be out for the whole weekend including an overnight, so when I discovered late in the week that it was going to one day, and not a particularly long day, Sunday at home felt like a much welcomed bonus.

Weekends have been really full with courses, weekends away, canoeing with Explorers and Alice on two Scout camps on back to back weekends.  We have something on every weekend up to Christmas, lots and lots of fundraising, two family birthdays and friends staying, all lovely things to be looking forward to.  I used to find it hard to manage with full weekends one after the other but our weeks are much slower now, so busy weekends feel possible.  A full week followed by a busy weekend can be too much week in week out.

I spent a lovely day out by myself after dropping Alice and a fellow Scout at a Jamboree training camp.  It came at the end of a full and difficult week.  It was a wonderful recharge and gave me the space to be able to reframe things that I have been trying to make sense of.  It was lovely to be able to move through the day at my pace without anyone else needing me to move on before I was ready.  It is a very long time since I have been able to do this.  I know that I am slowly moving into a very different passage of motherhood, my children are becoming steadily more independent and it is gives me more and more time to do things for myself.  It is strange, yet liberating.  I sometimes feel like a toddler as I take these tentative steps, wistfully looking back to those times when my children were by my side, yet also loving this new way of being.

Alice and I are still feeling into a rhythm which has not quite revealed itself yet.  It has needed to be a slow process for her to absorb changes that have hard for her.  She is loving her music lessons, her French lesson that she shares with Cameron, but is missing connections with a group of friends.  We had hoped that we could have a pause from changes for a year or two but another friend going to school this year has hit her hard, particularly as they offered no support to her as she made this transition, despite us checking in with them that school was going well for them.  The past weeks since schools started back here have been really hard for us both, last week has been the hardest.  I am hoping that we have now sown the seed of some possibilities, dipping a toe into some new things that will hopefully lead to the connection she is looking for.

We have created space for a day at home each week, one that we make a commitment to.  If we are not going away and needing to pack and prepare we are using the time for creativity.  Alice has been keen to make a rucksack for herself for months.  I naively thought that could just fit around whatever else we were doing, I have realised it needs a set time, so now it has.  She created a pattern, the fabric has been purchased and is slowly being cut into the shapes needed.  A slow process fitting around the ebb and flow of everyday life.

One of the things I have loved about moving from the summer to the Autumn is that my morning routine has a space again.  I wrote about the spontaneity of the Summer and how that looked for me this year.  I did enjoy it but those things that I like to do each morning often got sidelined, I am loving the way that they anchor my days for me.  I have a few things that I do each morning, not always in the same order, before Alice and I get the day going together.  It gives us both a space before coming together.  I have missed this over the summer and have loved finding this groove again,  which has a more comfortable feel to it this year as we begin our second year without Cameron.

In the midst of all the goings on round here I realised that Cameron's eighteenth is in a few weeks time.  I have long had plans to give him the words that I wrote to him on each of his birthdays, some of which I have published here, in a book along with photos.  Those readers who have older children may, like me, have years when their children simply did not want to be in any photos that you take, I have so few from the past few years.  I am glad I remembered to do this in enough time, I am just finalising the last few tweeks and hope it will be delivered in time, postal strikes permitting.

Before I go, I had a few requests from my last post for the Rhubarb and Orange Sauce that I mentioned so here is the recipe that I follow.  I tend to just throw everything in the pan without weighing it so I am sorry that this is a bit vague with the quantities, I find that all recipes are a matter of taste so if isn't to your liking the first time you make it, do adjust it to suit your particular tastes.  It is rather delicious.

Rhubarb and Orange Sauce

Approx 2lbs Rhubarb chopped into smallish pieces

Juice and zest from 1-2 oranges

1 tablespoon honey

Optional 1 - 2 teaspoons ground ginger

Put all of the above in a pan, the amount of orange juice to add depends on how juicy your rhubarb is.  If you live in a very dry climate you might need to add more juice.  I don't always remember to add the ginger it tastes just as good without it.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for approx 30-40 minutes until the rhubarb is no longer recognisable as pieces and the sauce is fairly thick, it will thicken more as it cools.  I put this into jars, allow to cool and then freeze them until I want to use them.  This will not keep unless refrigerated due to the low sugar content. If you prefer things sweeter then add up to 400g of Caster Sugar for this quantity of Rhubarb.

Adventures in my Kitchen

17 October 2022

This post comes to you from my kitchen.  I had every intention of posting from my kitchen each season but that hasn't quite happened, the summer was a rather busy time and I hardly posted at all, ironic really when I had so much to write about.

The salve that I mentioned I had steeping the last time I posted from my kitchen sadly went mouldy.  That is the first time that has happened to me, the leaves were not all in the oil they were steeping in, their contact with the air, I think that is what caused it.  I threw it all in the compost bin and have started again, I hope this batch is good enough to make a salve with.  I need to buy some more jars for when the steeping is done.

I have been soaking and cooking pulses in industrial quantities periodically over the past months.  I buy my pulses dried mostly in 3kg bags, so that I didn't always have to remember to soak and cook them each time I needed them and to save energy by doing it with a larger batch every few months. I soak around half of the bag in a large bowl before cooking them all up.  I then freeze them in 250g quantities which is the approximate amount that you get in a can of pulses if you buy them that way.  I don't have to remember to get them out of the freezer hours before as most of the time I am throwing them into what I am cooking so they defrost in the heat of the food.  I am lucky to have a very large chest freezer in my garage which has plenty of space.  I always aim to have four or five different pulses out there and if they have just all been replenished there can be thirty or forty bags.  When I am down to the last one I will soak and cook some more to make sure I have a constant supply.  I got a bit out of this habit and have started it up again.  Now that it getting darker earlier I need to make sure that I get the right thing out, some of them look very similar in the dark!

I have mentioned in several posts recently about all the fundraising that we are currently doing to support Alice getting to South Korea next year.  We have been doing a lot of fundraising which has involved baking.  We have tried various recipes and how now settled on four cakes that we can make really quickly as we have done it so often.   It works best if Alice does most of the making and I do the clearing and washing up in between each cake and any of the prep that she finds hard or slows her down.  We have become a good team, the kitchen still ooks like a whirlwind has been through it by the time we have finished.  We make two gluten free cakes, a lemon drizzle and an almond and coconut traybake, and two gluten cakes, gingerbread and orange and poppyseed.  These were the ones that sold the best and we rarely come home with any much to the disappointment of my husband and Cameron.  We have had a bit of break from baking this month as none of the fundraising we have done has needed baking which has been really welcome.  We have plenty in the freezer now so next time we need cake we are good to go.

We had a good crop of edibles from the garden this year.  We are never going to reach a place where we are growing all our own food our tiny garden is way too small to reach that but we grow what we can.  We picked and froze 10lbs each of blackcurrants and whitecurrants.  I usually make these into a coulis type sauce over the winter months to give us all a good dose of vitamin C in the months when we need the most as there are so many more colds and the like around.  The rhubarb plants were less productive this year although they gave us a good crop, I have made huge amounts of rhubarb and orange sauce which is now in the freezer, I love having this on pancakes at breakfast time.  I need to split the rhubarb this autumn to encourage it to be a little more productive next year.  I have lots of friends who would like a plant for their gardens, rhubarb does well round here nearly every garden in my village seems to have a rhubarb plant although not all are being harvested from judging by the huge flower heads some display.

We have had an abundance of salad leaves, edible flowers and lettuce.  I didn't buy any of these for months.  I grow several different types of salad leaves, wild rocket being one of them it grows like a weed in my garden.  I tend to grow lettuce where you just pick the leaves, I can make them last for months if I water them well, they have finally gone to seed over the past couple of weeks.  My cucumbers, gherkins, tomatoes and courgettes did really well.  I managed to pickle one jar of gherkins this year as I discovered that I could add them as they are ready, it remains to be seen whether that works.  I have made several batches of courgette and brie soup which are now in the freezer to use up the last of the courgettes. I don't freeze it with the brie in it, I add this once it is defrosted.  Now that it has turned colder my leeks are doing well, I am picking chard and kale which I have in abundance, my cabbages are slowly growing and the purple sprouting broccoli has lasted another year and will hopefully flower again in the spring.  I have winter lettuces and salad leaves in the polytunnel which I hope will provided for us for a few more months before going dormant over the cold of winter.

We have moved to a more autumnal menu with soup, stews and bakes back on the menu.  I make full of use of my slow cooker which we purchased earlier this year.  There are a couple of days of the week when we are out in the afternoon until quite late and it is so good to come home to be able to put tea straight on the table as it has been cooking in the slow cooker.   I shared a couple of pages in my last post from a cookery book for a 'recipe' for a warm salad which is still a regular fixture on our menu.   There is also a page for a stew and also a grain bake using the same format.  I have been tried various combinations of these as I work with flavours and ingredients to find things that work, a buckwheat based bake as been the best attempt so far.

I thought I was going to lose my veg delivery box earlier this year.  The company I buy it from doesn't actually deliver to my village.  Unfortunately for us there is another company that does, it is CSA scheme from a local village, the share is small so it only does about one or two meals for us, because of that scheme this other larger company will not deliver as they would be in competition which I get.  We have been using a friend's address to bypass that but they were renting and told us at the beginning of the summer that they were having to move.  Luckily for us we have other friends in the same village so we were able to continue with our delivery.  I had hoped that a new organic veg shop was going to open in our nearest town but sadly the plug was pulled on the venture, I would have preferred to have visited a shop each week as I could buy what I wanted but the box is a good alternative to buying in the supermarket where everything is covered in plastic.  I had been finding that the box we had been having was no longer big enough for our needs so we have now increased to three boxes a week!  One is fruit which we get once a fortnight but even with three boxes it is really good value and far cheaper than buying elsewhere.  I have stopped buying any fruit and veg in the supermarket for the first time in years.  I would love to stop shopping in a supermarket completely but there are few items that I have not been able to find elsewhere so we still use it for a few things but the number of items is gradually dwindling, I hope that there will be a time when I can stop completely.  I much prefer to support local small businesses.

I dug out my elderberry syrup and the dregs of garlic syrup recently.  I made the garlic syrup years ago but it has lasted well, the elderberry was made last year and there is still plenty left.  They were so useful to have in the pantry when we all went down with some cold type virus recently.  A cup of elderberry syrup mixed with hot water is wonderful warming drink when you have a cold.  

I have been given a big bag of apples which I need to peel and do something with.  I will most probably cook some up into a chutney and make the rest into a sauce, freezing some and dehydrating the rest to make fruit leather.  I am also on the look out for some pickling onions which I also usually make at this time of year.  My husband loves pickled onions and this is lovely treat for late winter/early spring.  The last of my tomatoes have failed to ripen and probably won't now that the days are shorter and cooler.  I will be picking them soon to make some tomato ketchup with, they are mix of slightly ripened and green ones and they make a delicious ketchup despite not being ripe.  I don't have much room to store alot of food in my pantry once I have some chutney, pickled onions and ketchup the shelves will be full again.  We have run out of chilli jam so I will be making more of that once I have more chillis.

I watched a series of programmes about making sourdough bread.  It was a fascinating watch and I kept rewinding bits to watch techniques again.  I learnt so much and have been putting the various techniques into practice here.  I am now making bread rolls twice a week and they are much improved.  I think I might try making a loaf now, they have always been a bit of a disaster but I am feeling more confident with what I am doing now.  Like so many things it is not so much following a set of specific directions but having a go and getting a feel for it, I guess that is how all cooking skills would have been passed on before the days of recipe books.  There are so many factors that can effect a sourdough loaf that is easy to get disheartened, the beauty of a home made loaf is that it will not be the same each time you make it but that can make learning hard as a different thing may go wrong each time.  Those rather flat, teeth breaking loaves are not happening as often now which means I have less breadcrumbs to hand but we have more delicious bread to eat which is always a winner!

My kitchen is a busy place, I spend so much time in there so it is not surprising I have so much to write about.  Thank you for reading this long post.

Learning to embrace Spontaneity

08 October 2022

We are well and truly into the throes of Autumn here, weather that changes from gloomy grey, heavy showers and bright blue skies all in the space of a few hours.  It keeps you on the toes and you never quite know what clothes to wear.  If the sun is out it can be really warm but the second it goes behind a cloud it is baltic.   I always feel like it takes longer to get out of the house at this time than it does in the depths of Winter when many layers are an absolute must.  You never quite know which coat to wear, if at all, do I need a waterproof? hat? gloves?  I usually end up packing them all into a bag which they invariably never leave, but I know that that one occasion I don't is when I will need them.

For the second or maybe third year running, I have not been keeping track, my sunflowers have decided that this is a good time for them to burst into flower.  Whilst most other plants in the garden are dying back, they are blooming away, a burst of sunshine amongst the decay.  I am hopeless at growing flowering plants, I think they collude behind my back, but this waiting until it turns cold before flowering, whilst rather wonderful and cheery is also a little baffling.  Perhaps I should just stick to edibles, they seem a little easier to master.

We have slowly found our groove with a rhythm gradually evolving and revealing itself as we find our feet with a new college timetable to work around.  Cameron is totally settled into his new course, Alice is still trying to find her way.  She is really missing being part of a group of friends, we are looking at ways to make that possible.  She is not ready for too many new things, they feel just a little too much right now, the recent changes have not yet settled for her.

As we have transitioned into our Autumn rhythms, I have also been reflecting back on the Summer.  It was a super busy one this year, maybe a little too full at times but I did love each and every one of the things we did.  The heat, the sunshine, feel like a distant memory now.

My house was very neglected for a few months.  I usually do cleaning and tidying as part of my morning rhythm, this was totally abandoned for most of the summer.  The laundry was about the only thing that got regular attention, the kitchen surfaces stayed clean and I waved a cloth at the bathroom when things looked bad.  I was pleased that I did not notice the dust bunnies having a merry party in plain sight.  They were invisible until I started my morning clean again,  I think they have mostly been moved on to new party locations.

Our summer days had a very different flow to them this year, we completely abandoned our structured learning time which we only usually stop if we are away or have guests.  As we spent most of the summer doing one or the other it is unsurprising that the days when neither were happening there was none of that going on.  On those rare days that we were at home without guests or a trip away to get ready for, we were busy just being.  Resting.  Doing whatever felt right for the day ahead, the hours slipping by so fast that it felt like breakfast was followed by tea.  Learning still goes on all the time, structured learning time is not always visible in this house, only when it is requested.

There was a time when I used to worry about those days where you did whatever felt right.  They felt wasteful as often they seemed to disappear in a flash of nothing.  I had nothing to show for them, it has taken me years to realise that you don't need something to show every single day.  Some days don't have measurable evidence of achievement, and you need those days too.  They are an important part of the balance, not everything we do needs or indeed should be measurable.  Those hidden achievements are the building blocks of life, the skills that give a foundation for life and are more important than knowing what 126x39 equals or the effect of the Romans on British society.

The summer is a time for spontaneity.  It is so much easier to get out of the house in the summer, there is no requirement for organising clothing which can take as long as you might end up being outside, it has certainly felt like that at times, especially when the children were really little.

I have always thought that I am not very good at spontaneity, it is all too easy to get into a mindset about what spontaneity is.  When we view it through the lens of other peoples life and what they get up to and the bits of their life they choose to share, it feels impossible to replicate in our own life.  Unsurprising really.  We have no ownership of it, it is like trying to fit a square peg in a round whole, it will just not fit.  When I looked at what we had been doing during the summer this year I realised it was spontaneous, it was my spontaneity, our spontaneity. It is not quite a perfect fit more a work in progress.

I didn't need things to be organised well in advance.  I said yes to many things at short notice.  I abandoned all pretence at keeping the house clean and tidy.  I had lovely days that evolved as they went along.  I went to bed when I felt like it.  I had long lie-ins.  I woke really early and went for walks.  We ate meals at random times of the day. 

I loved it, but I know that I could not be like that all the time.  I needed that space over the summer, the change, a break from the norms.  I am loving getting back into my rhythms.  I have welcomed back my mornings, filled with language learning, yoga, cleaning, breakfast, before my focused time with Alice or getting ready to go out depending on the day, like a long lost friend.  

Autumn is my favourite season.  I am totally ready for a slower pace.  I need the rest after all that spontaneity and busyness!

Slowing down

21 September 2022

It is the time of Autumn Equinox here in the Northern Hemisphere,  (for readers in the Southern Hemisphere you can read my post about the Spring Equinox here) that special day of the year when the daylight and darkness is the same all over the world because the sun is directly over the equator.  It heralds the beginning of its journey south and where I live in the Northern hemisphere, we will be getting less and less sun over the coming weeks, our days will get shorter and our nights longer.  It is the start of Autumn, the door way to Winter, a time for us to prepare for the change in the earth's energy.

The Colour of Autumn
The world is full of colour
Tis Autumn once again
And leaves of gold and crimson
Are lying in the lane
There are brown and yellow acorns
Berries and scarlet haws
Amber gorse and heather
Purple across the moors
Green apples in the orchard
Flushed by glowing sun
Mellow pears and brambles
Where coloured pheasants run.

This is a time to be thankful to the abundant earth and all the resources we harvest.  We take our Earth and the gifts it gives us so freely rather for granted, it can be hard to maintain a strong connection when we are so far removed from the means of production.  We need to do all we can to change the thoughts of those that think they can continue to take, take, take without heed to the consequences.

This is a time to be thankful for the rain which will fall in greater abundance in the coming weeks and months, however annoying and tiresome we find it, it is doing an important job replenishing the soil.

This is also a time to give thanks to all those wonderful people we have in our lives and who we spend time with, be it face to face or online, for their support and connection.  We are so lucky to live in countries where we have freedom to communicate with whomever we wish to and have the choice over how we do this.

As the summer fades away and autumn takes its place, so too does the light.  This is the time of diminishing light with days that can be gloomy, the clouds heavy with rain.  For many animals this is the start of a period of rest, either by hibernating or sleeping more and eating less.  It is also a period of rest for the earth, the leaves fall from the trees and plants as they preserve their energy within and enter their period of dormancy.  Would that we could sleep or remain dormant through this time, but our lives don't fit that pattern.

I know I have been guilty of resisting these dark days and of wanting the light and warmth to return as quickly as possible.  By embracing the darkness we too can preserve our energy, we too can slow down allowing ourselves to recharge, like the earth.

If it is your thing a Root Meditation is a lovely way to feel connected to the Earth.   Sit somewhere comfortable and close your eyes.  Imagine there is a tree behind you, you are leaning on it, feel this tree at your back, firm and strong.  Feel its energy, energy that is flowing through down into its roots.  Now begin to feel your roots reaching down into the Earth spreading out like the roots of the tree.  Feel those roots holding you firm.  Feel the earth's energy flowing through you.  Inhale the nourishment, absorb the clam.  Breath in and breathe out.  Feel your breath rising without any effort at all.  The breath of life, like day and night, like the tides, like the seasons, in and out, in and out.  All is in balance.

So lets look forward to the time of darkness and embrace it into our lives.  Lets be kind to ourselves, give ourselves permission to rest and do less.  Lets reclaim the balance within each of us which can get lost in the busyness of life in the warmer months.  As the circle of the year turns we will be able to head into Spring in six months time, recharged and bursting with energy.

Whilst we are in this time of resting and recharging we can reflect on our achievements throughout those recent warmer months, look back and think about all those amazing things we have done however big or small.  This is not a time to be starting big new projects but rather to think and plant seeds in our heads of where we would like to be, to go, to do in the future.

We can also use this time to let go of things, de-clutter your house and give away those things that are no longer of use to you.  De-clutter your minds and let go of ideas or values which no longer serve you, that are troubling you or causing you pain, listen to and trust your inner voice for guidance and wisdom. Find a way that works for you to release them, maybe writing them down and burning them.

I hope you will move into Autumn with more strength, embracing rather than resisting the dark.  I hope you will be kind and gentle to yourselves.  I hope you can find the time each day or week to rest and be still to enable your body to recharge and reclaim any balance lost.

Falling down rabbit holes

15 September 2022

Whilst my parents were staying with us in late August we went for a lovely walk up on the fell near our house.  It is an area that is rich in history with many cairns, stone circles and evidence of settlements.  We were trying to locate a roman road that was marked on the map and focused as I was on looking for this I failed to notice a large rabbit hole beneath my feet.  It was deep enough that I went in nearly up to my knee, my ankle did not like the experience I think I probably pulled or sprained a muscle.  

After a short rest I felt surprisingly ok and managed to walk for a least another hour before we stopped again for a drink and cake break.  Whilst resting I checked on my foot and managed to make it painful for reasons that I cannot fathom, I guess I rubbed the effected muscle in the wrong way.  By the time I got back to the car I was hobbling somewhat, driving home was rather painful.  It was difficult to walk for 24 hours after which it was swollen but no longer painful, normal movement slowly returned.  

Whilst I was away camping recently with Alice, walking back the tent in the dark I stepped on a slight slope my weakened ankle could not cope with and I managed to pull a different muscle.  Luckily I was able to drive the next morning, getting home could have been interesting had I not been able to.  

We are slowly heading towards the Autumn Equinox which for me marks the beginning of Autumn.  As with all changes of the seasons the last weeks of the old season and the first few of the new one mark a transition period.  We have started a new rhythm for the new season, a rhythm which is tinged with sadness.  

Nine years ago when Alice reached the age when her peers started school education, regular readers here will know that she has never been to school, we were invited to be part of a group that we attended until March 2020 and COVID ended us meeting.  It was a lovely group and a privilege to part of it all those years.  The children that have attended that group have also changed over the years, there were two constant over the whole period Alice and her friend, the daughter of the mum who hosted the group.  

She has been through a lot of changes over the past few years with friends choosing or having to go to school and friends moving away overseas.  In May this year we received the news, with rather thoughtless timing two days before her birthday, that the same friend was applying to go to school to continue her education.  We always knew this friend would go to school at some point, but we had thought this would be in two years time.  She was the last remaining member of our lovely group who had not started school, so that group, which has been part of Alice's home education for so long,  is no more too.  This transition has been made so much harder for her because she has had absolutely no acknowledgment from her friend or her mum about how this change might feel for Alice and effects that change has for her.  This has been hard for me to hold for her too.  The reaction that Mum had to her telling another family also effected by this change has really saddened me as it left me with no doubt that they don't feel responsible for how their behaviour is effecting others or that she wanted to hear from me how that change might feel for us.

Dealing with lack of empathy from others is really hard, an added layer to an already challenging situation. Because this has happened to me with this family before I was prepared for it this time,  I did not take it personally and was able to use my energies to support Alice rather then trying to work out why on earth anyone would think behaving in that way is ok.

Over the last week or so there has been a lot of noise in our house wafting through the wall from next door.  Since our neighbour died last October the house has stood empty, it was emptied by the end of the year and put on the market to sell.  It was very over priced and not liveable in, neglected by the landlord for the past twenty years they have owned it.  The front door was locked using a padlock as it was so misshapen the normal locks did not work, every room in the house needs work doing on it to make it liveable in.  We have been baffled that no has moved in since it had been purportedly sold in February/March time, so long ago that we cannot remember.  It now has new owners who are rapidly working on it to make it habitable again.  It seems the delay was over probate which confused us, it was inherited by two sisters when their mother died about five years ago, it seems that that was not sorted at the time.  My husband and I are looking forward to having new neighbours especially as it will mean that the house is heated over the winter, we live in a terraced house which is wonderful when everyone has their heating on but as the house was empty last winter it made heating our house much harder, with the very large rise in our bills having the house occupied will make a real difference.  

Whilst my husband and I are welcoming the changes next door, Alice is finding them hard.  She has only ever known one neighbour, he was a constant for her next door, an extra grandparent who she was really fond of.  She loved spending evenings with him when her dad was away, her brother at Scouts and I was out.  They would spend hours chatting and doing jigsaws together.  She would go to sleep at night listening to him playing the guitar through the wall, she started lessons last year inspired by him.  It is too much change at once for her.

My ankle limited what I could do for a few days, it is still a little swollen  and is still preventing me from doing some yoga poses weeks, thankfully walking is fine.  Alice is navigating through the change of her friend being at school and all that holds for her.  Having your feelings ignored is hard and has added an extra layer in an already difficult situation.  She will be ok, she will get through this and it will help her build resilience to deal with similar situations in the future.  I am really grateful to Alice for speaking her truth and telling me how having new neighbours feels for her.  We don't all experience change in the same way and when we are able to speak honestly and openly we can find the support we need to navigate through this.  I am naturally sad that we have not been able to do this with our friends.

We will be ok, with time.

Resting and Reflecting

01 September 2022

I have been a little absent from here in the past few months, my sporadic posting in some part due to my busyness.  My life has been much quieter and slower over the past couple of weeks.  I read blogs and write posts in the evening, it is the time of day that is mine. When the evening arrives at the end of each day I have been reading blogs but the words have not been forming together in ways that I needed them to to bring a post together.  My evenings have been full of knitting, of watching, of pausing, of rest.  My head has been so full during my busy time now that that life has slowed the capacity to arrange words has taken a while to return. 

The summer is a time of energy, the world around us is at is peak, nature is bursting with life where I live. We have not had the drought that other parts of my country is experiencing, it is green and lush where I live, the occasional rain that has fallen nourishing the earth and all that grows.  It is a time of being busy, of making the most of the warm temperatures, of being outside soaking up the valuable vitamin D that the sun provides us with, before the temperatures turn cooler and we hibernate inside around our fires or whatever provides us with warmth during the colder months.  As an introvert who loves quiet I find summer a difficult time of year.

The weather has been really warm, it is lovely to not have to wrap myself up in endless layers each time I leave the house.  We have not had such a reliably warm summer for a few years here.  There is so much to love about the summer but it is not a time of year that I can completely embrace just yet.  It is not that I feel like a fish out of water it is more akin to that feeling when you are wearing an item of clothing which doesn't quite fit and despite your best efforts you cannot seem to make the adjustments so that it is a completely comfortable.  All that said we have had some wonderful adventures.  

Way back in July we went away camping during a very hot period, a large tree next to our tent bought some welcome shade and coolness to our living quarters.  We are so lucky to have such beautiful countryside on our doorstep, we travelled a couple of hours from home along winding slow roads to reach this wonderful spot.  We walked miles.  In an effort to reduce our driving whilst away we took our bikes with us and used them to reach the areas we wanted to walk in, a good move as there were few parking spots which were always full as we cycled, somewhat smugly, passed them.  We found places to lock our bikes up before heading into the hills or round lakes for long walks, interspersed with swims to cool ourselves down in the heat.  It was good to spend this time just the four of us, chatting and enjoying each others company.  As the children get older these times feel so much more precious, moments to treasure as we all spend more and more time doing our own things.

We were home for one day from that adventure before heading out to the next one, this time it was to drop Cameron for his D of E Expedition whilst Alice and I were supervising remotely.  I usually assess D of E expeditions but am, quite rightly, not allowed to do this when my own child is in the group.  I swopped roles and supervised his group, which involved us being in the area should we be needed if a problem arose.  We camped too although it was cooler and wetter for these four days.  It was a pottering time, with shorter walks which were no less interesting.  It was lovely to spend so much time with Alice, we spent lots of time in our tent chatting, playing games and reading many words from the chapter book I am reading to her at the moment.  We got ourselves into a lovely rhythm.

The next adventure, a couple of weeks later, was for Alice and Cameron. They headed out for an  international scout camp which was held a few miles down the road from us.  The,y along with 4,000 other Scouts and Explorers, enjoyed a week of activities both on and off site from the venue they were using.  I was hoping to have a relaxing week at home mostly by myself as my husband was also away for three days that week too.  Sadly one of the leaders did not leave me with much confidence in her ability to care for my children and those in the rest of the group, so it was not relaxing experience I had hoped for.  They enjoyed themselves in the main, Cameron felt that he was treated like a ten year old and as he is nearly eighteen this was somewhat waring for him.  The lack of trust and respect by the adults of the young people in their care has been reported back to those who can implement further training.  

We have enjoyed time with both sets of grandparents, time, which now that Cameron is at college, is restricted to college holiday time so it added to an already busy summer.  Time with them has always been arranged throughout the year, college holidays being new to us we need to get better at using this time more wisely so we don't end up filling the days up completely.  I have lost my ability to see the bigger picture too, a skill I had honed very well before lockdowns came to our shores.  I have already blocked out a few weekends in the coming months to ensure that we do not get ourselves too busy in the coming months which are already looking rather full.  They will be our pausing time, quiet time at home pottering and resting which is so important to us.

Whilst my parents were staying with us Cameron got his results from his course and exams.  He was delighted with them, his hard work over the year paid off, he passed them all including a Distinction in his Art Diploma (Film and Photography) which was higher than he had been predicted.  He had been working at upper merit all year and did not think he would gain this level of mark, we are so proud of him.  This means that he has easily gained a place on the next level Art Diploma which he starts next week, he is both nervous and excited.  I was really nervous when he went into college to get his results, it has felt like I have been examined as well as him, my support of his education over twelve years he was home educated under the microscope.  He has just applied for a part time job, having given up his village paper round of four years back in April so that he could focus on his final course project and his exams.  I hope he can find something to give him a small income whilst he is at college.  It was strange supporting him through the application process, it is years since I have written a CV or applied for a job.  Although I do have two very part time jobs, both of which I have started in the last couple of years,  I did not need to apply for either of them.

Over the past week I have felt things shifting, as the nights draw in, the temperatures steadily dropping especially at the beginning and end of the day we are heading slowly towards the start of Autumn, my favourite season.  After the busyness of the summer I am ready to head into a period of transition to hibernation over the Winter.  I wanted to have a summer which was full of wonderful adventures after what has felt like a long period of not being able to do that, I have had that this summer but I don't think I would do quite so much again.  It has felt a little too busy for me with not quite enough pausing in between for rest before the next thing.  This past week has seen that shift too of having a long enough pause that has enabled me to feel rested and ready for the next thing which is another four days of camping from Saturday.  A D of E Expedition again, this time I am assessing.  When we return Cameron will have started his new course and it will be time to start planning a rhythm for Alice as all her groups start up again.  I feel ready for that now.