I am sorry for such a long departure. I find it impossible to connect here or in any space that requires my attention to read uninterrupted and focus on writing. The school holidays and the lack of a private office meant that I always had someone behind me, lurking, peering over my shoulder, asking questions, telling me stories, complaining about a sibling or the amount of washing up they had to do!
I had so many things to share. I conjured phrases and lines in my mind as I lamented, “if only I could write this down”. So many thoughts and feelings inevitably pass, and you move onto a new state of being and an altered frame of mind. There is no point going back and repeating what has been and gone. It becomes meaningless, and the connection is lost.
Perhaps I could have waited until the kids went to bed, which is always later in the school holidays (especially with daylight savings), and written then. But then I am subject to adult eyes and their penetrating questions, and I accepted long ago that I do not function particularly well after 8 pm! We all have to acknowledge our limits.
So here I go again!
My kids have all gone back to school, and while the husband is on leave, he is currently out to lunch with friends, so I am blissfully alone. It might seem uncharitable to say that. But when you are busy with a large family, privacy and alone time are rare commodities. I grasp such opportunities with both hands and start moving! These are my most productive days. I feel a deep satisfaction getting so much done – gardening, baking, cleaning, laundry, organising – and to see the clock still has hours left in the day for me. That is when I feel at leisure to sit and write about the feelings and events that have moved me.
Following the mayhem of end of school events and Christmas celebrations, we enjoyed the quiet repose of the holidays. We were so desperately in need of solitude and time to do nothing. While the last couple of years has represented a great deal of nothingness to many people, we have felt its emotional and mental drain. I had never felt so tired as I did by the end of last year. It wasn’t physical exhaustion – it was mental fatigue, like having to be mindful to breathe. Life had lost its natural momentum. Our lives have not turned upside down as some have, and I am so grateful for that. Regardless, the all-pervasive presence of the pandemic has left its mark. The rules of life we have grown up to understand have changed. The goalposts shifted. Inconsistency suits no one.
But I am hopeful for a brighter year ahead. I have simple goals I want to achieve. Not the typical new year’s resolutions, but those goals where the achievement gained is along the journey. While weight loss has been a goal in the past, I have no particular wish to run a marathon or even run to the end of the street. Self-flagellation has never been my style. However, I recently yielded a long-held desire to own an apron dress from Kleine Schobbejak. It was the last of that dress on sale, and while it is smaller than I am now, it is not smaller than I have been. That is as much to say that I hope one day to be able to fit it!
My goals are generally so simplistic they could hardly be considered goals, more so everyday actions. But simple is what I want, and definitely what I need. I often feel inadequate when I see other people’s goals. I’m seriously not trying hard enough! So with that in mind, I present my list of goals/actions for the year ahead and onward.
- eat simple fare (I warned you it was simplistic!)
- live with less
- lay something aside for our children, and something to give to those who need it
- practice economy
- don’t attempt to imitate wealthier neighbours
- find a job that satisfies and embraces all that is good and kind
- keep the house organised and clean
- attend to children’s education
- write, read, correspond and reflect
I have also prepared my project list for the year and the usual ‘need’ list. While it pays to consider one’s needs with deliberate honesty – ‘is that truly a need or a want?’ – I feel justified in my list. Although a gas bbq has been on my list for many years now, it has still not come to fruition. Perhaps, that is a want after all. But in my reckoning, a gas bbq allows us to prepare meals even in a blackout, which is not so silly a desire, particularly in winter when you are looking for warmth, and eating a cold salad is unthinkable.
My project list is certainly more exciting to look at and possibly still overly ambitious. Nevertheless, I am hopeful I will get at least some of the projects done this year. I love seeing what other people are up to, and while once again, seeing what others are up to often makes me feel like an underachiever, they are often my best sources of inspiration. My project list is a collection of creative and family activities that satisfy my various interests. Here is how it currently reads:
- Summer meadow embroidered tote bags (embroidery pattern from @ourhomeonthehill)
- shift/swing dress
- corduroy overalls (or buy!)
- Lander pants in black linen and brown corduroy
- recap German language lessons
- spinning classes
- scour wool and card with a drum carder
- make cat beds
- practice solstice celebrations
- embroidered wool mittens (using boiled wool – a pattern also by @ourhomeonthehill)
- Midlands cardigan for Lachlan
- Burdock shawl for me
- Poppy cardigan for me
- Aelfwynn capelet for Chloe
- Hazel, Pendragon, Scriptorium socks for the kids and I
- beanies for all (any design)
- finish mustard Shore cardigan
- lined green wool ‘Hobbit’ hooded cape
There are a lot of knitted garments on my list, which is not something I have been particularly successful doing these past few years, but this year, I feel different, more grounded, more connected to my creative side. I will remain hopeful! You will see that many of the patterns are by Fox and Folk. I adore Norah’s designs. They are whimsical and poetic, with classic stories woven through the stitches. Norah’s patterns also work well and are easy to follow.
I am particularly excited about the lined ‘Hobbit’ cape project because I plan to share the experience of making capes with a good friend. We will have twin capes! I am a little concerned about my limited sewing experience, but the practice of choosing a pattern and fabrics and working together on this project feels very ancient and ritual. We will have to find a rather broody, wintry moor to sweep across once completed!
But I also have plans to continue two favourite pastimes, reading and cloud gazing. The love of reading has been with me forever. Books and stories are magic, creating images before my eyes and provoking thoughts and emotions that inspire me in so many ways. I find reading certain books a spiritual experience. Their words have the power to suspend tightly held beliefs and preconceptions and open the heart and mind to everything they seek to teach. Two such treasured books recently enjoyed are Heidi by Johanna Spyri and Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte. I managed to get hold of the full version of Heidi some time ago, and what a treasure it is. Gentle and pure with the honest and strangely (at least to me) comforting messages of Christian values. It is a beautiful read that I turn to when feeling dispirited and needing solace.
As for Anne’s Agnes Grey, what a singularly exceptional read. I don’t quite know how I managed to miss this masterful piece of work. Its unapologetic honesty and connection to the reader in any decade since its publication is a standout and genuine comparison to the more generally accepted Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. There is truth in this story, and I love Agnes’ imperfection and mortality. This heroine did not descend from the heavens but is very much human, which makes her character so relatable.
At the moment, I am clinging to youth by reading the first in L.M. Montgomery’s Emily series, Emily of New Moon. I received a copy of the second in the series, Emily Climbs, as a gift from my parents when I was a young teen. A beloved title that I read countless times. I feel a bit indulgent returning to the first of the series now as an adult. But I am thoroughly enjoying high spirited eleven-year-old Emily. It has brought back such powerful and delicious memories, opening a gateway to forgotten dreams and a vision of who I used to be.
I have not indulged in my other pastime of cloud-gazing since a child lying on the trampoline with my siblings, watching the passing visions overhead. I have not gone so far as returning to the trampoline but have spent many a quiet evening watching the late summer light fade in the sky from my bedroom window. There is no need for anything else, just a gentle melting away and submission to do nothing more but gaze at the sky. When you allow things to fall away from your mind and feel your body release suppressed tension, you become receptive to the stories performed by the clouds. The characters they form. Here, a giant ship carrying invading troops to faraway lands. There, a glowing cliff face, blown to dust by a petulant god. I do and think so little while all this passes before my eyes, but it gives me so much peace.
I hope you have enjoyed the few images from my time away amongst the words and will share some photos of the apron dress and other happenings in a later post.
I wish you peace and cloud-filled pantomimes. Until next time, take care.