The box is getting too small

When I look around I’m at a bit of a loss with what is happening in the world. While it is apparently a sign of intelligence to be able to hold two opposing ideas in your mind, I just can’t process the polarities I see around me. Republican vs. Democrat, Brexiteer vs. Remainer, and whatever you call the vocally different views on the coronavirus management. It seems humanity is being driven to increasingly polarised positions that make it hard to remember we’re all just people trying to live the happiest lives we can, loving our friends and families, making homes and generally doing our best with what we’re faced with.

Tonight it came to me what may be driving some of this for people because I was finally pushed there myself, to a place where I was ready to make a radical stand, and I realised that we all need a space of possibilities to make our choices and shape our lives within. There are always constraints (laws, physics, weather…) but people need to feel they have choice, and have their ability to make those choices recognised. If too much choice is taken away – the “box” gets to small – then people will push back. What did it for me was fishing. And, no, I don’t fish, but my partner does… His favourite way to unwind after work is to walk down to the little river in the village and catch a few fish (for those of you not in the UK, we catch and release here, so it’s not a nightly fish fry – sometimes he doesn’t catch a thing!). But today it was announced that during the most recent lockdown, our permitted outside exercise can not include fishing.

Wait, we can’t stand alone on a river bank and flick a line into water and risk contact with an insufficiently wily fish? I know we need to stop the transmission of the virus. I know we need to avoid contact with other people. I can absolutely see why we’d need to stop fishing tournaments, and why friends can’t meet for a fish (or anything else…) but this blanket ban on what is in many instances a solitary (and well-being enhancing) activity offends my reason. The government have removed any space for judgement, for choice, for nuance. They are treating us as if we are incapable to making a sensible, responsible decision. And maybe some people struggle with that, but most don’t! So I’m angry. Deeply, grindingly angry and it’s pushing me to a more polar view than I would ever take by nature because this denial of my rationality has pushed me too far.

So maybe that’s where the polarity comes from, people feeling pushed too far. People feeling their humanity, their dignity, their rights, their views, whatever, have not been recognised and the box is too small. Maybe. Or maybe it’s just me getting angry. (I do apologise for the rant, especially if you were reading for something about nature, or cats – normal service will resume, I’m sure…)

What hurts almost as much as the anger, though, is that I don’t feel I can have this conversation with most of the people I know. They might agree, they might not, and if they don’t it might damage treasured friendships. The problem is that the virus response has also been made binary – if you’re not 100% behind the measures it can potentially break friendships as much as Trump-Biden is tearing apart America. So, while I think (hope) most people would agree that governments generally have done their best with their measures – and sometimes got it right and sometimes wrong – it doesn’t feel safe to have that conversation. Another small box…

I wish I had a magic key that would gift people with open-minded humility, with the ability to see the nuance and the sense that very often exists even in the views opposed to their own. We need to be coming together in a world that for some reason seems bent on pushing us apart. We need to appreciate nuance and individual circumstances. And we need to give people a bit of space to make their choices and live their lives – far better informed choices, I’d say, if we could get people connecting again instead of being driven into boxes that are just too small to fit.

I walk my best path

And offer you a wide space

Hoping paths mingle.

Starting Over

It’s hard to know where to begin… It’s been about a year since my last post and the house is sold, the divorce is final and I did buy that little cottage. I can hear the birds singing in my garden, and the future is mine to shape. Or it will be…

Because, unexpectedly, something far bigger than me took over just as I was finding my feet – the dreaded virus… A lesson, if one was needed, that control is an illusion. So much for travel plans, a visit with my sister, seeing friends and building my business. With a sense of disbelief, I’ve erased my plans for 2020 and settled into living day by day.

It’s strange for a planner to drift, but I’m doing better than expected thanks to another unexpected development – a timely introduction by a mutual friend means I’m not alone in lock-down. I’m lucky to be sharing it with a man with a great capacity for fun, and living a life filled with something I’d almost forgotten for years – laughter. These are uncharted waters for me, but I’m grateful for the gift of learning to see life through a different lens.

It also turns out that, even in lock-down, life can be full of adventures – midnight walks, fish spotting in the local stream, trying new things together. Finding someone who shares my love of nature has rekindled that passion and opened my eyes to even more beauty than I realised was around me. It’s powerful to finally to be able to share what has always been a solo passion.

So, for today, tomorrow, and foreseeable tomorrows, I’ll laugh, and I’ll wonder, and I’ll be grateful. Thoughts of what will happen when “real life” returns will intrude but, for now, I’m enjoying a different path and finding out how much life can move even when you don’t go very far.

A flash of laughter

In those naughty baby blues

And I can love “pause”

20200613_210303

When the future is grey

 

lifestyle-4210497_1920You never know what’s around the corner.

That evening, after the tidying up, a last quiet drink and putting my feet up, I walked in on my husband texting. As I walked in he hid the phone. And in that moment I knew… Apparently he’d planned to tell me about his affair the next day; he’d had to wait until his mum died so I wouldn’t tell her (?!?). But he was – after five weeks – in love, and eighteen years together meant nothing. He’d move in with her as soon as her husband had moved out; he wanted to be with her all the time and couldn’t believe the love and connection he’d found.

And the future was grey… I have never felt a door slam so hard in my face, or faced so little understanding of why I couldn’t get with the programme and be happy for him. I tried asking him to reconsider, told him we could sort things out but, it seems, he had a new relationship that didn’t need work so wasn’t interested in working on ours. Strange he hadn’t given me any indication before that ours needed work…

I can’t remember much of those first months – I know there were desperate calls to bemused friends, who rallied round and with tea, hugs, flowers and endless patience while I rambled on in pain and confusion. I know there were tickets booked to see my parents, because home (even when home is an RV in a place you’ve never been) is where you go when you’re broken. I know that his dream house has gone on the market (and how, how could he have pushed so hard to buy it and then walked away without a backward glance)…

I remember gratitude for the massive outpouring of love, a lifeline that kept my head mostly above water when there seemed very little point in swimming. And I am still grateful for that lifeline, as I continue to wait in this house, surrounded by broken dreams, waiting for someone to want it, to breathe happiness into it, to give it a heart. And let me move forward.

The future is grey. The only thing I can see clearly is the door of the new home that, one day, I will close behind me, giving myself and the pieces of my life a place to rebuild. I just hope that when I can finally open it, the mists will clear and I’ll see a future.

Grey mists veil my sight

Blanketing any colours

That shine tomorrow.

Thanks to reaklop2 for a perfect image.

Hallelujah

Today I cried for my childhood and, specifically, for my childhood faith…

I was raised Catholic, and I guess I just accepted that as I grew up and learned what religion (any religion, it seems…) was really about, it was natural to turn my back on the magic and goodness I first learned about in Sunday school. I never felt like I was losing anything; after all, I’m an urbane citizen of the world, cool in my cynicism and secure in my judgement rejecting institutions that didn’t live up to the goodness they promised.

I never thought about what I was losing.

Funny how the Christmas story, when you pare it back, is so relevant to today: a family travelling, unable to find a place to stay, and the kindness of strangers giving a warm bed and gifts. I’d forgotten that in the rush to get the gifts bought, the food planned, and all preparations done on time so I can heave a sigh of relief…

So I want to thank Kaylee Rodgers for reminding me of the purity of childhood holiness, and that there is good at the heart of it that’s worth holding onto. If you haven’t heard it, have a listen to her Christmas version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and see if, for just a moment, you don’t believe in wonder.

kaylee-rodgersIllumination

layers my naivety

blinding me to joy.

While it’s not sent me back to Catholicism (it’s got a bit too far for that…) her gift did give me a much needed reminder of the beauty within people and, maybe, a tiny bit of faith.

I am not an anorak

RSPB Sedge WarblerIt’s my third week of #30DaysWild and it’s great to have a focus for my blog (even if it’s not so different from the usual…)

Today I woke up early (6am on a Sunday – why?) and in the mood for a long walk, further south along the river than I usually go, and what a lovely reward – a Sedge Warbler singing in the morning. It’s not that they’re rare, but it’s the first time I got a look at one of these lovely little guys and a poem just popped into my head while a paused for a look.

I’m becoming a bit of a nerd
For noting the type of the bird
I see when I walk
But I don’t stop to gawk!
Me, a twitcher? Now don’t be absurd!

Can I just emphasise the lack of binoculars and stalker-like obsession – you can’t be a twitcher when you just enjoy a lucky peek 🙂 If you do fancy working out what the bird you’re seeing or hearing is, though, try the RSPB, where I got this lovely photo.

To everything, there is a season

This week I’m struggling for ideas, and wondering where all the happiness I normally get from walking outside has got to. I have to be honest, right now nature is annoying me. More specifically, the weather is annoying me.

First there were the lashing winds a couple of weeks ago; I was a bag of nerves worrying about my peonies (all in bud) and spitting tacks because it was, frankly, too horrid for my daily walks. That eased briefly, deceptively, into a few nice days, when I got some walks in (careful, though – go early to avoid sunburn), but now we’re back to sticky heat and thundershowers that make walking a misery.

I’m starting to think I’m lucky I started my walking habit in autumn, because summer might just have stopped it before it started (let’s not mention flying insects and pollen…)

All in all, my temptation is to just fling open the patio doors and sit inside looking at the garden and listening to the fountain. I can count on the birds coming for a bath every afternoon, which is hilarious with the resident bullying blackbird trying to chase everyone else away, and there seems to be something new blooming every day.

Summer, like no other season, seems to me like a time for sitting and dreaming, so maybe I just need to take that gift and enjoy it. Autumn will arrive soon enough.Daisy


Verdant greens caress

Inviting slumberous pause

While the sun sparkles

Walking by the river

Morning WalkI’m still walking by the river most days, mostly in the morning, in time to watch the world wake up. There’s always something new to see: moorhen chicks, goldfinches, and even a wren yesterday.

It seems odd that the year is nearly half gone. So much has changed, mostly for the better, but the changes haven’t been without pain.

This morning I caught up with my swan family today and, for the first time ever, mama hissed defensively. And I noticed – only four babies…

Time passes gently
Or sometimes it tears right by
Red in tooth and claw

Spring morning

I can’t quite believe it’s been two months since my last blog; somehow life seems to be getting in the way these days. Prompted by The Wildlife Trust’s #30DaysWild challenge in June, I decided it was time to renew my commitment to reflecting on my time in nature.

Most of my days begin with a sunrise walk along the river. It’s a time to greet the day, to gather my thoughts and ground myself before being swept up in my to-do lists and client needs. Throughout April, a highlight of each morning was peeking at a swan nest on the river bank and wondering when the babies would be born. A little over a week ago, I had a lovely treat when mum, dad and five babies swam across the river to say hello; I could honestly see dad’s chest puffing with pride!

New FamilyWrapped in downy grey

For a first family portrait;

Proud parents show-off

Sunlight on the river

Friday morning I took a walk – I decided I’d better take advantage of the one chance the forecast suggested I’d get to spend time outdoors over the bank holiday weekend.

I took my usual route out of town and along the river, setting off while the sun was still low in the sky. It’s hypnotic, walking along the river, no matter what the season and Friday was no exception as I walked along watching the sun glint on the river, brushing through stands of dried teasel and smelling the fresh grass.

I love the soft colours of early spring, before the vibrant greens take over from the dun of winter, and the textures of water and fields around me tickle my senses just enough to ground me. No great surprise, really, when a poem took hold.

Thames Sparkles
Thames Sparkles by Jessica Winder

Sparkles dance on blue;

Silk in the burlap landscape.

Nature’s minuet.

Thanks so much to Jessica Winder for the lovely photo – sun sparkles on the River Ouse funnily look just like the ones on the Thames! Take a look at her other photos (and some interesting information about them at Jessica’s Nature Blog.

Winter morning

Driving to work last Friday morning, I was reminded again of why I love winter mornings. It’s the stillness of the mist on the fields, the blackness of bare trees against the pearly sky, the anticipation of knowing that something wonderful is just waiting to wake up…

fields_in_frost_and_mist2c_arborfield_-_geograph-org-uk_-_616553Fields still tucked up tight

Drowsing under fog blankets,

Sun tugs at the edge.

Photo credit