Lessons in Trust

I have wanted to do some form of both dancing and music for two or three years, but couldn’t find anything suitable in terms of my abilities (limited when it comes to dancing!) and time available – until late last year when I saw a ladies morris group out dancing. It was just one of those times when I knew instantly that that was what I wanted to do, and by January circumstances meant I was able to join the group and have my first evening out by myself since having M. Amazing, and utterly perfect for me! As a result I have been very busy over the past few months practising polka steps, learning the dances, and sewing the required costume – leaving less time for all the other things I would love to do, and even need to do, like housework and gardening. It has once again proved to me that I can manage whatever I want to provided I focus all my energies in that direction – but only just! Hence a few late blog posts recently, besides other things.

The difficulties I faced were frequently unexpected. To begin with, all went smoothly. Realising I was serious about joining the group, and that the only ‘spare’ skirt wouldn’t fit me (kit normally being returned when dancers leave), extra fabric was purchased and I was handed a bag and a roll of fabric, a greaseproof paper pattern for the skirt in size 20ish, and the spare skirt to copy. Purchasing ribbon to match was my responsibility – and at that point my problems started. Three shops later, I found a colour that was close although not exact and either too narrow or too wide. They were able to order some for me, for collection the following week. Sorting the pattern was another major challenge, since the skirt has 8 flared gussets to be fitted and a flat waist. I can’t even guarantee my waist will be the same size in three months time with all this dancing, so I have to find a way of making it adjustable…

So I get the skirt made – although not without having to take the sides apart and re-sew them smaller since it was already too generous. Next I try and buy plain cotton poplin for my shirt, so visit my favourite fabric shop. They don’t have enough. Something they normally keep in stock, so I try again. And again. And again! It turns out the owner is ill and hasn’t put the order in yet, and won’t let the three or four other people who work there do it either, so by this time fabric stocks are seriously run down – I buy elsewhere but it isn’t exactly what I wanted. Still, I shall probably need a second shirt by the summer…

Meanwhile I ask multiple times about a waistcoat pattern. A month later I am given a bag of coloured fabric scraps for the patchwork front, but still no waistcoat. I finally manage to borrow one from another dancer, but I only have it for three days as she is dancing out early in the season. (I knew I wouldn’t be ready for April dates!) So I make my own pattern from hers, guessing at size alterations needed, and then try and buy the extra bits I need. Calico lining takes two shops to find, different colour ribbons take three, and buttons take four shops before I find anything suitable. I am at this point going into Derby almost once a week with M, taking up valuable sewing time!

At the same time I must get a pair of clogs. This is not something I can make, nor buy off the shelf in my size, so I find a clogmaker online who will custom fit. I expected them to be ready early April, but I only get a message to say they are ready for fitting at the end of the month. So my first free day for nearly a month (thanks to pre-schoolers having school holidays) sees me driving nearly two hours, an hour fitting clogs, an hour having a walk and my sandwiches while the clogs are finished, and then driving for over two hours back again. I do have a contingency plan, but mainly I’m just trusting I will get back in time. Thanks to a roadworks traffic jam delaying me by twenty minutes when nearly back, I am able to collect M with 1 minute to spare and no stops en route. The dance is in three days but I’m too worn out to sew that evening.

I spend my free half days that week glueing the photocopies of music I have been given onto card, and then covering them with plastic so that I can use them outside. There are over twenty in total. The dances in the list for the weekend get practised on my recorder, the rest do not.

I finally finished sewing everything the morning of the day before my first dance, continuing to trust that if it was meant to be, then somehow it would work out. I still have to add some decoration on the back of my waistcoat, and sew some bell elastics for my shoes since the ‘spare’ pair of those were rather tight. Luckily my next dance is not until June as everyone else is having a long weekend away, so hopefully I can relax a bit now!

Finding a Parking Space – The Witch’s way

I used to hope I could find somewhere to park. I was often disappointed. Then I tried trusting that I would find somewhere to park, which usually worked although I might have to walk further than I wanted to at times. And it might be on a curve, or a tight fit for getting a pushchair out of the boot. But now I have a better way. I simply ask for a space.

To do this I access the same state of mind I use when dowsing, a sort of light-meditation, functional but not interfering in any way with my awareness of my surroundings. Given I am usually driving at the time this can be important! (So too can be choosing a quiet moment.) Then I frame my request something like: “An it harm none, please find me a suitable parking space. As is my will, so mote it be. Thank you.” The first part allows Spirit to make the best possible choice for everyone, while leaving my request unspecific. Adding the second sentence, and the gratitude in advance, I know it will happen – I can then let go and see what unfolds.

What has been interesting to me is the range of parking spaces that have become available to me using this method. Places I might not ordinarily have thought of parking but where one car has shown me a new option at right angles to the road in a natural layby, or by a disused lot. I have also found that all spaces have been really easy to get in and out of, a rare thing given my previous experiences, and have been on the right side of the road for getting M in and out of her seat. Once I even parked a hundred yards from where I normally do, so used a different footpath to join the river path, and then found my normal footpath was temporarily closed off.

So I am now left wondering does this work because I have invested greater trust in finding a space, taken out any specifics of what I think I need, and am therefore open to seeing the unexpected; or because I have accepted my spiritual nature and asked for help, thus opening new opportunities?

The Rain Pond – Part 1

I have mentioned a few times here that I have great plans for bringing water into the garden. This weekend has finally seen the first of two ponds started…

It is impossible (for me anyway!) to make accurate plans for our garden. Every thing is curved, or at a funny angle, or non-definite in its placement such as the hedge boundaries. Instead I sketch out ideas roughly to scale, and then try to translate them onto what looks right on the ground by laying ropes on the grass. So it was with the pond. We now have an outline of the bed it will sit in, an outline of the water area, and some kind of a plan for depths. However it is only with a lot of head-scratching that we have managed the last part.

The first test trench was dug about a month ago, straight across the middle of where we thought we wanted the pond, which will be roughly kidney-shaped. It was dug a spade’s width at the top, down to two foot six or so which I understand is the minimum depth for a wildlife pond. The good news was that it was topsoil all the way down, so it will be very easy to use what we dig out elsewhere in the garden. (Unexpected, given other areas are sandstone and clay within a spade’s depth or less; plants there will be glad of some more decent soil.) Also it has sufficient clay to hold the sides together even if they are cut steep – meaning we should be able to reach our required depth despite the small size. On the bad side however, digging was made easier by the extraction of eight or nine bricks at the bottom of the trench – the removal of which turned the hole into an old-fashioned lightbulb shape. Since we have already dug out 4,500 bricks in our garden, which is only the size of a singles tennis court, we really didn’t feel the need for any more! (They proved very useful for our extension as they match exactly…) Worse, we found the edge of an old path about a foot down, made of modern slippery pavers laid onto a very thick (8-10”) bed of concrete. Not so helpful when its line threatens to cut right across the proposed pond. It did, however, explain why the grass down the middle of the garden always went brown in summer.

This weekend the plan was to decide where the two ends of the pond would be within the ‘pond bed’, so that I could measure up and order such things as liner, edging, cobbles etc. Marking out with the aid of a rope laid on the ground, no problem even with M’s help. Second test hole to check the buried path, not so great. The path sloped upwards towards ground level, rapidly becoming too shallow to use as a marginals shelf at barely six inches below anticipated water level, and the concrete base turned out to be three foot wide. In four foot wide water this wasn’t too helpful.

So after some more thinking, we have finally decided to: use the first section of the path we discovered as a marginals shelf somewhere in the middle of the pond; make the far end of the pond deep instead of shallow; use the shallowest bit of concrete as base for the cobbled area; and cut a hole across the middle of the path where it really can’t be avoided in order to give a second deep area.

Exploratory trenches for rain pond

Exploratory trenches for rain pond

The photo shows the deep trench in the foreground with some of the bricks and other rubble we dug out, a row of pavers forming the edge of the path, and a wide area of concrete, pavers removed. There are a few bits of grass and soil left to remove within the pond area… Top right is the corner of the base for my new sanctuary space, from where I plan to watch the rain bouncing up from the surface of the pond, frogs diving amongst the plants, and a pourover gently keeping the pond topped up with rainwater.

Did I mention there will eventually be a stream running into this pond? Meaning that the water also needs to be deep enough at the top end for a pump for when it isn’t raining? Raising the pond would have been an alternative solution – but then it would be too high for the stream to actually flow into it!

I am continuing to trust that my crazy, ambitious plans are all capable of being realised and will work!

Trust

I have been varnishing some drawers over the past three weeks. There are ten large drawers, each needing two coats and a good rub down with wire wool in between. I cannot do them with M around, so I have had to trust. Trust that she will take a nap on enough days that I can get the work done, and trust that she won’t wake up before I have completed each pair of drawers and cleaned up myself and the brush afterwards.

Amazingly this has worked out. She has slept in our bed, in the car, in the bicycle trailer, wherever for just long enough for me to finish each day. It has been wonderful and really rewarding to be able to get the job done.

I am reminded that if something needs to happen, it will. It is only when we interfere by doubting that the process fails. So I will trust that when it comes to doing the frames within the new wardrobe, she will sleep equally solidly.

Trust

Rosa 'Graham Thomas' in the snow

Rosa ‘Graham Thomas’ in the snow


The snowstorms have continued, giving me an interesting lesson in trust this week. I was one of a group of parents and toddlers looking out at the snow falling while we ate our lunch. The really big, soft flakes that don’t take long to cover the ground – although in this instance the temperature was still above freezing so it was only dry and raised areas that were turning properly white. However I was struck by the contrast in attitudes between the various people present.

Two mothers spent the whole of lunch checking their mobiles at increasingly short intervals, getting more and more worried about the snow. One then received a photo showing a white house, and they both left in opposite directions as quickly as they could get their children dressed – trying hard to persuade another couple to do the same. The rest of us stayed (the couple, one other mother and myself), enjoyed our lunch and the singing / storytime that followed, and then drove home not in the snowstorm but in glorious sunshine. The roads were completely clear, the verges and countryside covered by a fresh white blanket, and it was beautiful out.

An obvious answer to why we made different choices might be that the two who left lived in places that were more likely to get blocked up by snow. Protective instinct for our children also has a large part to play. I am not criticising those who left – if instinct tells you to get home, then that is what you should do. (Although distinguishing between fear and instinct can take some practice.) What I am more interested in is why some of us stayed, and what it came down to was two things – flexibility and trust. Flexibility to make alternative arrangements if necessary, such as parking somewhere safe and walking a short distance, and trust in ourselves that we could cope with a problem and with life not going quite to plan. This seemed to me a good way of being, that those of us remaining all had a belief in ourselves and in general followed life’s flow without thinking too hard about it.

As an animist pagan, I see everything being connected through spirit and everything being divine as a result of containing spirit, and that includes us. The first step for many might be to put faith in some source outside themselves – as indeed it was for me several years ago when it was suggested I let Brigid drive my car. (I don’t enjoy driving and was getting very stressed by the traffic.) Somehow I found the faith to try it, and had little whisperings all the way home down the motorway, when to change lanes and when not to. But later when I saw the divine in everything, I realised the divine was in me equally, and I have learned to have faith and trust in myself.

I had one additional area of trust however. I have written before about my workings with weather, and how I was asked to help keep the balance for my local area. After more snow was forecast this week, and hurricane Juno was threatening New York, I did a meditation on what the weather was up to locally and whether any action or changes were required. I came to understand that the cold and the snow were very much both needed, but with my communications it felt gentler. I felt that I was now working with the weather to a small degree, co-creating as it were, and I could trust it not to put me or my family in danger just like I could trust myself not to put me deliberately in a situation I wasn’t comfortable with.

Learning

“But we don’t want to TEACH ’em,” replied the Badger. “We want to LEARN ’em–learn ’em, learn ’em!” (from Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame)

I have been pondering the how, when and why of learning recently, because I have come to believe that we each individually made the decision to incarnate because, in part at least, we wanted to learn and develop in various ways. (Some say planet Earth is one of the toughest schools…)

When growing up I had some idea that we learned things at school, and when we knew everything we would be grown up. We would then get a job and use all those things we spent years learning. Learning was therefore about knowing things. It could be fun, it could sometimes be very satisfying, but frequently it simply had to be done. Spellings. Times tables. French verb declensions. Physics equations. Do children still learn these? I’m sure they are still taught, but as Badger said above, learning is quite a different matter.

Then there was learning a musical instrument, a skill that required many hours of practice and eventually some fun came out of it. Changing from the violin to the french horn helped me find the fun aspects! To reach the highest levels I can see with hindsight it was necessary to become an independent learner; to want to practise, to improve, to be the best I was capable of. To want to learn.

Whitewater kayaking and canoeing was something I did for many years, from my early twenties until shortly before I got pregnant with M. I eventually learned not only how to sit in a boat and stay upright with minimal effort while letting the river do all the work, but also a lot about visualisation which has been useful in many other ways. There was also, for me, a lot of learning about how to cope with the emotional side. Running rapids, be they rocky and technical or large and powerful, surfing waves, going over ‘drops’, is to experience nature in a very raw state. The mental anguishes I went through, and on occasion saw others going through, ‘learned’ me a lot about preparation, confidence and eventually trust. The fact I kept going back for more suggests that on some level I wanted to learn.

It was when suffering from ill health in my thirties that I really started consciously learning about life and developing my awareness of how I behave and think. A very different sort of learning, and life can present some tough lessons at times! Somewhere along the way I think I finally managed to become that adult I thought I’d be in my twenties, and become my own person. Lessons tend to have a much more practical nature though, like learning how to relate to other people with honesty and integrity, to be aware of their needs and also my own. I’m still learning; I still get things wrong and take people too literally, but I’m learning.

But what interests me most is how our rate of learning doesn’t seem to change much throughout our lives. I have spent many hours over the past year and more watching M learn, and just as I was struck a few months ago by the fact that we change and develop mentally all our lives, I have been surprised to notice that she doesn’t actually learn any faster or slower than I do, or than most people do.

Take language. Some people have a natural gift, others struggle. M appears to understand a lot more than she does, and can make a few words go a long way – in exactly the same way as a foreign exchange student will work out the jist of what you are trying to explain. Like the foreign student, she has a few words that she can say very well, a few ‘starters’ where I can work it out, and unlike the foreign student who would probably feel silly, a lot of babbles. Adults in the right environment are equally capable of learning a new language. Physically, M learned to walk, and then to cope with uneven ground, steps, etc at pretty much the same rate that most people I have taught to canoe or kayak learn. Looking back I don’t remember seeing a great deal of difference in those learning canoeing at age 16 or 56 that couldn’t be explained by self confidence; age itself was rarely a factor. Behaviourally three weeks is long enough for M to learn most things to a basic level, whether it is not to bite me when feeding, or to leave things in a particular cupboard. This is the same length of time we adults are told it takes to break a habit, or to form a new habit.

If, as many have suggested and I believe to be true, we are all eternal spirits having human experiences, then this makes perfect sense. Our higher selves have different levels of experience, but are all old enough that the differences between say a million and one or a million and forty one or a million and eighty one are negligible. So where does this leave us? We can all learn whatever we want to, no matter what age we are, and have every expectation of succeeding. We can put our fears aside and give things a go. Trust in life, and trust in our ability to learn.