Over-Abundance?

I have recently become aware of how incredibly and wonderfully abundant our world is. I suspect it has always been so, at least in this lifetime, but I just hadn’t noticed until now how whatever I want is available, cheaply and easily, in total profusion. Food, clothes or fabric, toys, books, bicycles … just about every aspect of life has far more available than what we actually need.

Brook Medicine Eagle wrote at the end of the last century about a ‘problem’ spirits incarnating on Earth would have in the future: that they would have to sign a contract to say they agree to have everything they want. As she said, the implications of this are huge. Most of us have been driven by lack of something in order to work to get what we want, and therefore learn spiritually in doing so. To maintain that forward drive when all of our wants, as well as needs, are met is much more difficult – although it will create a huge positive energy shift in the world! However, I am starting to think having everything we want is already true, as I have now seen this as a reality.

For example, there are so many books in the world that everything I wish to know I can learn about. However I frequently borrow too many library books – and then end up feeling overwhelmed because I have too much to read and not enough time or even brain for them all.

I used to struggle to find suitable fabrics for sewing, whereas now I am realising whenever I finish something I feel so enthusiastic that I buy fabric for two more projects – which seems to be easily available to me. Then I am overwhelmed because I have too many things to make, and if I magically completed them all immediately then I would have too many clothes.

I do this in gardening, with the kitchen overflowing with apples, or blackberries. (Thank goodness time doesn’t allow me to store them all, or I would then grow very fat eating them all!) With house renovations. (Maybe getting some finished would be worthwhile… but then what would I do?) With artistic projects – a new catalogue of books and craft projects of all sorts arrived on my doormat this week. It would be so easy to become a jack of all trades and master of several, because everything is so easily available. Resources, ideas, guidance; we live in a world of total abundance.

The trouble is that an excess of ‘stuff’ only adds clutter to my life and separates me from Spirit, stopping me from really connecting with what is around me. It is a distraction. There is no point in just bringing more and more stuff into my life. And yet if I bought or created nothing new, and had no wants or desires, that would be equally wrong – because I am still learning and developing and moving forwards. I change, so I want my environment to change with me, my activities to change and develop with me. To reflect who I am at this point in time. To have dreams that I can bring into reality.

I realise that those who will be successful in the future, as well as in harmony with their life and the planet and everything around them, are those who can clearly focus what it is they want, and equally critical, know what they don’t want at any point in time. M knows this instinctively. I am starting to relearn.

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Dreams

I nearly did a terrible thing this month: I nearly gave up a dream.

For a long time I have dreamed of getting a book published. I have started several since I attempted my first novel when I was about twelve, and three (one non-fiction, two fiction) reached the stage of being sent off to agents.

‘The Musical English’, my first full length book, is subtitled a social history of two thousand years of English Music. The first notes for it were made twenty years ago, and most of the work was done five years later when I had some time and a computer. I even had some positive feedback, had I recognised it for what it was at the time, but eventually I decided there wasn’t enough original work in it and I moved on.

My second completed book was a novel about a group of young people learning white water canoeing, called ‘Not For Lemmings’. Again I learned a huge amount by writing it, about me, about canoeing, and about how to write. The number of rejection slips increased.

I started a new novel, ‘A Chance To Paint’ that I hoped would have more direct appeal to agents and publishers, a life-changing story about a young woman who is sent to look after her Great Aunt and after a series of sometimes dramatic events, never returns. Lots of agents say they love it, but don’t feel they can take it on. So I started yet another novel.

Then I got pregnant with M, so stopped writing for a while. I began this blog, and the tree stories which have the advantage of being written only to please the trees and myself. I’m being slow, I don’t find I can get into short stories in the same way as full length novels, but I also can’t get into full length novels when my time is constantly interrupted by the demands of a toddler. I redit A Chance To Paint, and remember how much I liked it and other people liked it, and send it off again to get some more rejections.

I start a plan for a new book, having finally decided not to finish what I started pre-M.

Then suddenly I get a crazy idea for a novel based on a fairytale, follow it for a few days, get very excited. Until real life intervenes. I have a house to get finished, a garden I want to redesign, clothes to make or shopping to do, and a little girl who I want to spend time with. I realised something had to give, and being a lot less attached to things than I used to be, it was the writing which felt like the luxury ‘extra’.

At this point I should have felt freer, a lightening of the load, of all the things I was trying to do. I did briefly. So that was that, I thought.

Except several days later I had a realisation: I wasn’t happy. This wasn’t particularly connected to anything, apart from a questionnaire on happiness where I was scoring myself only 6 or 7 out of ten in most areas and noticed my health had slipped down to a 5. I realised I felt a bit ‘flat’, even to the point where I didn’t feel excited about anything I was doing (sewing, gardening, reading, piano, etc) and it was only M that was keeping me going. I suddenly realised I was back to where I was a few years ago, or maybe worse because then I was on an upwards curve, whereas this one was flat. And not only that, but my health was getting worse again, with stiff hip joints and then a bad cold settling on my chest causing me all kinds of problems. This wasn’t a me I recognised right now, so what had happened? Why were things all going in the wrong direction? Then it dawned on me, my decision about writing was wrong. It had extinguished my inner flame. I have spent so much time over the past few years trying to work out what I should be doing and where I should be going, and yet somehow I had never realised that writing was my dream!!!

It was almost as bad as when I was a teenager, and nearly didn’t study music. (I was studying Maths, Physics Chemistry A-levels, but filling all my free time with music…) A serious depression set in, until I made what was then a brave decision to go against all advice, and suddenly everything felt good again. This was the same, in a minor form since I worked out the problem sooner, but what a colourless half-life I would be living if I hadn’t!

So I did a visualisation to not only see myself writing, but also to relight my inner flame. It filled my whole body and shot out of my arms and head. It is still burning now, with maybe a few holes where I don’t want them and where my body has temporarily lost trust in me, but I am on the mend. My writing is going better than I could have imagined, and somehow I just gave myself permission to write. Non-attachment might be a great thing, but not where dreams are concerned. Because if I don’t follow my dream, what am I doing here?

Autumn Equinox

This week was the Equinox, when day and night equalise briefly as the sun passes over the equator. Here in the Northern hemisphere we have now entered the ‘dark’ time of the year. M and I held a ceremony at the time of the equinox, conveniently 9.22 on Wednesday morning when we were at home, so we lit candles, rang bells, and I sang some songs celebrating the turning of the Earth. At the moment of the equinox we paused, and then had the rather awe inspiring sight of the candle flames dipping down very small for several seconds, before growing back to full size again. Her delight that something had actually happened was very touching.

For me the equinox was time to call in a new way of being. I could feel many cycles coming to an end in the month preceding the equinox, but nothing new really happening yet. Impatient as ever, I have been finding this frustrating. There are things I want to do, to achieve, and I need to look after me a bit more since I am down to one pair of trousers that fits, the other having worn out last week. (M now has a full autumn wardrobe…)

However I also have to remember what autumn is all about. Getting the harvest in for the winter, making sure it is safely stored away so that we will not starve in the months ahead. Animals retreat into hibernation, plants retreat below ground. They are busy resting, building, growing in ways that we cannot see but that will bear fruit in the light half of the year. I need to look after myself more, sleep more, keep warmer and eat more sustaining or starchy foods than I do in summer – root vegetables instead of salads. This should be a time for dreams. Dreams need time, and even dark to grow, before they can manifest in their full glory.

Luckily there is one cycle I began during the summer months which has reached the active stage this week – that of my garden redesign. As the grass ceases its growth, it is time to mark out the new paths so that digging may commence. That will be a great job to do in winter!

Hello 2015

I would say Happy New Year, as so many people have said to me in the last few days, but I celebrated the year turning at Samhain, and again at the winter solstice. So instead I will say welcome to 2015, in the belief that this year promises even more good things than the last one.

I prefer to look forward rather than back, and I spend more time making future plans than reminiscing or worrying about what has gone. If it is true that we get what we focus on, then this seems a good way to be to me! However this is not because I am trying to cut out or ignore the negatives in my life, but part of how I overcame illness. My road back to health that started five years ago included setting myself a target for each day, however small, that I could achieve and feel like I had done something. Some targets were physical, such as going for a walk every day and slowly increasing from half a mile to managing three miles in under an hour. Some were creative, where at the end of it I had something in front of me I could see I had managed to do. It made me feel more worthwhile – and still does, for if I have nothing I am trying to achieve I feel lost.

After various thoughts about new projects to tackle, I made some promises to myself at the solstice. I share them here in the continued expectation that what is written down is more likely to happen than what is kept to myself!

Sewing – I have started making a quilt of the map where Winnie the Pooh lives, to hang on the wall where the poster of the same picture keeps falling off. (The radiator underneath melts the white-tack sticking it to the wall.) M is being her most helpful ever and loves seeing all the green background pieces being cut out and laid out in position, which is just as well since lack of space means I have to put them on the floor!

Stained Glass – I have drawn out one stained glass design for some door panels for an internal door, and have a front door and window panels to draw in the coming weeks. It would be great to get them all made this year…

Bodhran playing – when I wanted a drum for journeying, I bought a bodhran because I loved the sound and it felt right at the time. Now (nearly three years on) I want to learn to play it properly, so that I can use it for both and be more relaxed when I play it.

Working with elementals in the garden – I have no idea how to proceed with this one yet; drumming might be involved at least in the first instance. It feels important to me to try, however long it takes.

Climbing the ‘Wainwrights’ – the Munros always intrigued me in Scotland, and I have climbed about ten, but mostly they are too big, too demanding, and too far away. Also the list changes from time to time. I was in the Lake District for Yule, an area which I love and have walked and canoed there over many years, both solo and with family. This was the first time I had come across the concept of completing all the ‘Wainwrights’, which are all the fells AR Wainwright detailed in his books in the 1950s. They have the advantages of being a fixed list of 214 fells, some are small, and given it was his personal choice to include them, they all have some feature of interest. I would love to start from scratch and see if I can do them all in, say, thirty years. However I plan to start with the hundred and sixty-odd I haven’t yet climbed and see how I go. If nothing else, it is the best excuse I’ve come up with so far to ensure I get to Cumbria at some point each year!

Section of the Soca gorge, taken from footbridge. (German paddler.)

Section of the Soca gorge, taken from footbridge. (German paddler.)

Swimming in Dunnerdale – because it looks amazing. Paddling the Soca gorge took me eight years from seeing a photo to being there – and was every bit as wonderful as I hoped it would be (see the photo!) Swimming under Birks Bridge might take me as long before M is ready and the weather is right, but I’m hoping that is an outside time limit!

Given that dreams posted here have a habit of coming true, feel free to add yours in a comment below!

Moving Kitchens

Some people are really organised. They make plans for their home, carry them out, and finish the job all within a few months. We don’t seem to manage that. We make plans, then discover something else that has to be done first, then find something that has to be fixed, then escalate the plans, then circumstances change and the plans have to be put on hold, eventually we return to the plans to find we have to remake them… you get the picture!

Today we moved into our new kitchen. We drew up the plans for it in around 1998. We have had the kitchen units in our shed since about 1999, thanks to a salesman who said (when we wanted advice on plumbings and electric points) we could order the kitchen and they would store it for us until the room was ready…

The outer shell for the kitchen was completed in 2001 – the two year delay being caused by the realisation we had to build the garage / workshop first because what was there was completely unsound. We had some help for both of those major undertakings, thank goodness! Since then we have done almost everything ourselves, including bricklaying, repointing, plastering, plumbing, electrics… I won’t go into all that has happened in the past decade, but a boundary wall got built in the garden, a chimney got rebuilt, the living room got stripped to bare brick and wood floor and then was redone in true Edwardian style, and the garden, garage and workshop all got some attention as well as many other smaller jobs. We planned to get to the kitchen some day, but lets face it, ours worked, sort of, and there were only the two of us. Finishing the extension was not the highest priority in our lives.

Then I got pregnant, and we knew we had to sort the house out. I got people in to get the room plastered and floored, then the fitting of the kitchen was started the week before M was born. Plans had to be remade slightly along the way (luckily we still loved the units and worktops!) and M accompanied us to tile shops as a tiny baby asleep in her car seat. Finally another year on it nears completion and we have had the grand move into the new space. Not finished, the old sink and drains had to come out before the new cabinets could be fitted on the other side of the wall, some painting and tiling needs finishing, there isn’t a bin under the sink yet, but it’s good enough to move into.

So what have I learned through this long process? Above all, how to hold onto a dream. That it is possible to rekindle the energy and enthusiasm for a project and complete it with love. Acceptance that we are only human and not everything can be done at once. Learning not to blame anyone else for what I cannot do myself. Forgiveness for when we fall short of the high standards that we set ourselves. That beauty is possible everywhere and is eternal; it doesn’t matter how delayed it is, the beauty is still there to be found and is what lasts. Even in a kitchen, especially where my stained glass is reflected onto the wall late afternoon in winter. I’ll try and get a photo of it when it returns in a month or so.

Dreams

If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough!

I first read this quote, said by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, about a month ago and have been meditating on it ever since.

The original context was a speech to college students, made in 2011, encouraging them to really make something of their lives and aim as high as they could. She was someone who experienced a huge number of failures and setbacks, enduring exile, imprisonment and fear of execution, yet she managed to hold onto that dream and become Africa’s first female president.

I have never had such a dream as that, and leadership is not my destiny for this lifetime. But there have been times when I have struggled to have any dreams at all, failing to hold onto even my smallest dreams, the things I would like to do. Illness robbed me of energy, impulsiveness robbed me of judgement and trust in myself. I allow other people’s negativity and doubt to influence me and I retreat into my mundane, simple world. I carry on the job of suppressing my own dreams, talking them down, not seeing any practical purpose for them. Gradually I forget my dreams, they have no place, they are not reality, they are fairytales.

Finally I am trying to turn this around, reawaken my creativity, by following up any idea that has sufficient appeal to me to carry out, and which I think I can manage with M. But I am turning into a multi-stemmed tree, going off in all directions, without producing a solid trunk that will grow upwards. None of my stems are large enough to use for timber.

Feel the fear and do it anyway (Susan Jeffers)

Well possibly. But that assumes you have a dream that scares you. Mine don’t. Any that might, got trampled on. Eventually realising this I decided to stop having dreams for a while, and just do things I enjoyed with no thought for where they might lead. Do what feels right at the time.

But now I’m ready to look again. What if I grew a few of those stems large, and then wove them together, like a wattle fence? What if I wanted to do something crazy? What would I do if I could do anything?

The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. (Sirleaf)

I now have a mad project to create a picture for this blog, using lino printing. I am not an artist, craft is much more my thing. I can’t really draw, and I have no idea how to do lino printing. But I started with a dream of a picture, back when my photo idea got rained on repeatedly (Best Laid Plans, 23 May) and then grew the dream to the point where it most definitely scares me. But it is also exciting and I feel inspired. It will then weave into another strand, storytelling and tree pictures which also scares me. But why do half? What is my bigger dream? That the stories and pictures will help connect people with trees and spread a little love around the world. Could we one day have a different relationship with trees? One based on respect and sharing?

Yes my dream terrifies me. Why me? What makes me think I am remotely capable? But then, what have I got to loose by trying?

Just because something has not been done as yet, doesn’t mean it cannot be done. (Sirleaf)

You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however. (Richard Bach)