I’m home at last and a sunny frosty, clear gorgeous day. A day when there is snow, and yet the leaves are still golden on some of the trees. A day of blue and gold and white, when – rather than writing – I am going to go outside again… I walked through the countryside in and out of the beech trees this morning, and now… I’m going to walk some more…
Wind roars, grasping. Moans
ripping green silk, torn beech
trees shudder, resist.
Blown about. It is weeks
since I walked here. The way
green where once was grey.
oystercatchers call loudly
landing on a roof.
Black and white delight.
Shrill out of place miracles
of joyful welcome.
Swan high in blue sky,
Red kite harried by two crows,
Skein of geese fly by.
Velvet grey fungi
Nestled on emerald moss,
Leaves under my feet.
Cold wind yet warm sun.
New paths explored then
Return home – happy.
This morning, fresh from a long night’s sleep after I returned from the EuroSTAR conference, I sat in the conservatory and watched the sky – a skein of autumn geese flew high, by v-skewed across the pale autumn sky. A murmuration of starlings. The parliament of rooks that sweep across the garden. I refilled the bird feeders for the smaller birds, and reflected, how blessed I am to have found this place as my haven and my home.
The New Year urge to self improve is upon me, the desire to mark the movement of the calendar to a new year, a blank diary, the thought of a new start. Those blank pages awaiting all possibilities. But it is so arbitrary, and with the colder, dark weather, and a desire to hibernate strongly influencing every movement my mind and body takes, maybe not the best time of year for resolutions.
I have been thinking about what I want to achieve, my goals – long and short term – and my ambitions. Advice about how to self improve, and what disciplines to adopt come from all directions, so many individual good ideas.
Yesterday, I looked back at all the advice for self-improvement based on “just spend (time period) every (day/week) doing…” that I have received over the last year, and have started to wonder if putting all those things into my life would actually mean that I do nothing except meditation, yoga, exercise, meditative & creative walking, daily writing practice, making youtube videos daily, writing a blog daily, mindfully cooking and eating nourishing meals, reading (spiritual/cultural/political/current affairs/tech subjects/arts/science/…) in fact means there is no time to do any work… And today I remembered pelvic floor exercises, 10000 steps a day, artist’s date-with-myself day once a week, mahjong, singing, dancing, painting, drawing, sewing…)
If I did all things I have been advised to do, there would not be time for work… or sleep… so instead of trying to do everything, I need to combine, refine, decide what I want to do, what direction I take. Maybe there is a place for seasonal changes of emphasis, as well as a daily core. Maybe there are three areas I could group everything into:
- wellbeing: for example Physical health, mental health, spiritual health
- self development: for example Creativity, awareness, learning
- productivity: for example Writing, teaching, researching
These work together: if I look after my wellbeing – exercise, fresh air, nutrition, friendships, rest – then it will be easier to be productive and to nurture my self development. If I am productive and developing as a person, I will be more motivated to look after my wellbeing.
I need to think about which times of day and which seasons are most suited to those three areas, and whether the types of activity I do change with the seasons. I also need to think about which activities run daily, weekly, monthly or seasonal cycles.
Or maybe, I need to not over-think it, relax, digest my supper and then sleep.
2018 – a year of great potential – what will I do to harness it? Today, despite much thought, I am no clearer on my goals for the year, I can see some of the picture, but not clearly. Tomorrow I shall think some more.
This year – 2017 – so much has happened, personally, professionally. So many changes, so many challenges, so many new things that I have tried.
I have travelled to India, Canada, France, USA, Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Malta, I have lived all around the UK – in flats, in houses, in cities, towns and the countryside. Moving on, moving on, all the time.
My friends have been my safety net, my front row, my supporters, bringing me encouragement, reminding me of what I want to be and what I am. I think of my long standing friends, and also friendships renewed across the years, and new friends, people I have met for the first time in 2017, yet feel I have known forever. Some encounters built on years of friendship, some encounters were only of minutes in length. Souls touching and parting, linked now only by the tenuous threads of memory.
I have stretched, grown, released tired and knotted muscles, been still and moved swiftly, listened and spoken, laughed and wept, started to spin the threads that I will weave to fabric and sew into a new patchwork quilt of a new life. And now, at the end of the year – I am. I am an expert, I am a student. I am a thinker, I am a comedian. I am a sewer, I am a painter. I am a writer, I am a musician. I am a dancer, I am a swimmer. I am a listener, I am a speaker. All these things I have done, some not so well, but all of these things I have done.
2017 has been an extraordinary year – my life has changed. I acknowledge that I have much to be grateful for in my life: my energy, my friends, everything that has happened. I acknowledge the suffering and pain so many in the world feel, and hope for its cessation.
“Looking forward and not back” says one of my friends, and that is the watchwords – after this brief review, this acknowledgement that 2017 has been a year of personal growth, of creativity, of energy, of growing to know myself better.
What will 2018 bring? What do I want and what can I achieve?
Look back, see the past
landscape clear. Looking forward:
new path starting now.
Another year, another autumn, another train ride, another country. Another two conferences to connect by some days and some travel. Why fly city to city, and wait, when you can drift along the tracks, absorbing the world around you?
This time, from Vancouver to Toronto, the Canadian. Board in Vancouver on Sunday evening, arrived Toronto Thursday evening. Through the Rockies, through the Prairies, through the woods, and past lakes.
I took hardly any photos – every time I took a photo, I missed something to watch, to properly see… There was so much to fill my eyes and mind: the breadth of the sky, the subtlety of the colours, the wonder of a wild and empty world. Being on the train was a capture into a glass cage of stillness in motion, a tiny community of fellows, a transport of ideas.
In Vancouver, where I was for only a couple of hours between leaving the the aircraft from LA and boarding the train to Toronto, I met a labyrinth artist, HiMY SyED (his website is http://labyrinths.ca/) and we fell into conversation – just a chance encounter in the cool autumn sunshine, as I was drawn to the labyrinth he’d chalked on the open area beside a children’s playground. Mazes and labyrinths, paths with branches and decisions, changing a maze to a labyrinth with a single path of meditation by making a decision. (I typed there at first “a single path of mediation” – a strange mis-step.) Our conversation ranged across Chartres and Cathars, Sufis and Dervishes… and then … the train, and so a brief acquaintance is made and gone.
The train drew out from Vancouver after dark, I sat in my cabin and watched the light of the train’s headlights across the rock faces ahead, and the lights from the windows of carriages ahead of me reflecting in water, flicking lights illuminating so little, hinting at much.
I didn’t sleep much those days – it was too easy to sit at night in my cabin and watch the night sky, overwhelmed by stars and the northern lights curtaining across the wild black.
I didn’t sleep much those days – it was too easy to sit by day and watch the prairie pass by, magnificent in its restrained colours – biscuit and charcoal, fleeing animals, swirls of snow geese rising and falling.
Toronto was the end of the line.