Today so far have read uplifting things and had a lovely soulful chat with John… these really really helped. I talked about how amazing it is that my life feels so different in such a short time: dad, Chris, my own personal growth and some adult self that seems more certain and appears to stay around more often. All in this current year! Plus my lovely group of new friends, again all since the start of this year! Wow!

I am going to stay with the positive, Judy gave me a good bit of advice yesterday, she said she uses the criteria of how much shit would she bear and what is the most emotionally good thing for her to do (we were talking in the context of our families and the aged parents/siblings etc ) when deciding how involved or what actions she takes. I think this might work for me in anything! So, I adopt it and today I did not start by reading the news or anything of the fuckwittery in the world of men, or depressing stuff. I read Brainpickings and some intelligent and thoughtful writing, I wrote a couple of good communicating emails to ladies in my life who care, and then I had an honest and soulful conversation with John. These feed me… I need to remember!

It is not that all the things we speak of are joyous and light, but hard and emotionally heavy things are easier when shared with a good connection and soul friends, and with John… that leaves me feeling blessed that I have these opportunities.

I feel like I have been wordless for a while. I appear to have found some!!

The Alchemy of Poetry

The next few months look like they will hot up in the writing life stakes. I have joined a local writing group where the majority of members seem to be poets, and I am attending a local (different) group where, at the January meeting, I am due to read my own work to the unsuspecting public (which is really other, very sympathetic, poets!) I have also signed up for a four-month course to learn the craft of poetry creation more formally, and I am looking forward to this very much indeed.  It has a well-known poet as the tutor and only a small group of students so I should get some good feedback and learn lots.

This exposition takes care of what is happening out in the external world to feed the soul with new inputs and to create threads to hold me to the work that I need to do, but that is only half the story. Recently I have been thinking about the alchemy of poetry and the connection it has to my heart and soul. The ability for what look like ordinary words on the page to take on this magical property when in the right order and turn into an exquisite masterpiece of language and meaning – to make something opaque appear transparent, (or even something always thought of as clear look opaque!)

Through the work of David Whyte and Oriah MD, plus many other more, I have seen poetry work on a soulful level. The books by Roger Housden  in the series “Ten poems  to…”,  particularly the first one “Ten Poems to Change Your Life” are full of such work, and essays about how they have done just that. These writers make for inspirational reading. Sometimes though it is hard to see what it is that is being said – there is a certain way to look at poetry, a bit of an art to reading and absorbing a poem (like the art needed when looking at Magic Eye 3D pictures from my younger days!).

Kim Rosen says the following in her book “Saved by a Poem: The transformative power of words”:

In order to enter poetry’s language, your grip on habitual, left-brained ways of processing information needs to soften. Somehow we know how to do this with music and art. You probably wouldn’t try to figure out the exact meaning of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony or Ella Fitzgerald’s scat singing. Nor are you likely to do a pragmatic analysis of an abstract painting by Georgia O’Keeffe or Jackson Pollock. You feel these art forms. You allow associations to play through your awareness. You let your linear mind relax and go for the ride.

As you read poems, listen to them, and speak them aloud, try meeting them as you would a piece of music. Allow your rational, linear brain to relax. Dare to not understand, to lose your grip on making sense of the words. Let the images, like musical notes, pour over you. The French philosopher Gaston Bachelard writes that poetry “comes before thought . . . [R]ather than being a phenomenology of the mind, [poetry] is a phenomenology of the soul.”

This is beginning to make sense to me; the alchemy of turning words into poetry and the language of the soul. I hope to be doing more of this in my own work and finding the soul food in others’ poetry as I really start to understand and appreciate the magic in making of verse.


The new chapter… what happens now?

It has been an amazing year, one that is passing by so very quickly. It is even longer between posts than it was the last time I came here to drop down a few thoughts, but I haven’t been idle; since May the summer has been packed, full of leaving our Oxford home and the city itself, then there was J’s retirement, plus two excellent transition holidays consisting of three weeks in Scotland and then three weeks on the waterways of England. (These will be topics for future posts soon.) Now, as the year grows old, the trees are putting on their autumn colours and the days are growing shorter and cooler. We have lit the wood burner and the airy living space in The Glass House is warming nicely. Time for contemplation…

We have truly entered the beginning of the new chapter now; both of us living here in Shropshire and both of us not in paid employment. This is a big shift in time availability for our own thing, where routines are gone and there is no precedent to the expectations of what we do together and when. Not only do we have no customary schedule but we have a less familiar living space to operate within – there are no rules! In some ways that may be good, as there aren’t old habits that get in the way, but equally there are no structures to help shape our days. Yet.

We are only into our first week of what can be termed the “new normal”, so there is time for all this to evolve. I have a tendency to want to rush things when they are uncertain or ambiguous; I guess I am more of a control junky than J, who is much more likely to sit back and wait to see what emerges. I am hoping that a little of his patience will rub off on me.

So far this week most tasks have been things that have been put off because we were not fully moved in before we then went away or, because we were away for nearly 2 months, needs arose due to the passage of time.  Consequently we have gardening and correspondence backlogs, not to mention the dreaded change of address letters. Combine this with our name changes (we have taken both our names into common use, so we both have a name change) then we have enormous potential to confuse some admin staff at the various organisations where we are customers. Hey ho, such is life!

On the proactive side I am pleased that we have reinstated the weekly update and planning meeting that was useful when we needed to co-ordinate work diaries along with our personal calenders. This is a useful way to ensure we have a catch up at least weekly and it helps allay my lack of control fears. As part of this meeting we review the week just gone and that means we get to focus on the positive things that happened and what went well. This is something we consciously want to do and serves to remind us (me) that life is good and we are doing OK. It also helps us to look at anything we need to continue to focus on. I think this will be a great tool to help us navigate the next few weeks while we figure out what happens now.

Let the future start to unfold…


2014… so far

I am finally thinking I want to get back to the writing life, and this is a good place to come to do that. It has been a while since I stopped in and left some thoughts I know, but I have much to tell…

This year started well with a sense of promise and optimism. J  is due to retire in August, and the future began to open up before us like a budding rose. Then two things seemed to happen simultaneously; J asked me to become his wife, and we decided our most pressing priority is to set up home together.

Whereas the wonderful marriage proposal was well within the plans we had been formulating, the powerful desire to set up our home right now did come as a bit of a surprise. It was the antithesis of the choices we had been contemplating about this year where top of the list had been a plan to travel to the other side of the world and then spend 2015 living snail-like in a camper, exploring the Australian wilderness. Our change of heart to yearning after a fixed abode was flummoxing; we felt we had been set on the idea of our Gap Year, and we both mourned the loss a little.

These feelings were soon overwhelmed by the excitement of starting to plan our wedding. On Friday 3rd January J asked me to marry him. It was a joyous and unexpected evening of loveliness. His demeanour all day had betrayed his nervousness and although I could sense that, I could not make sense of why. He had been out to visit his father and had taken longer to get back home than I had anticipated; when he unexpectedly insisted that we go out for dinner (unusual for us as we don’t tend to go out on a weekend evening) I finally understood. I came downstairs after getting ready to go out only to find him standing in the lounge holding a large bouquet, and looking scared.  He had been to fetch the flowers impulsively after his visit to his dad; he decided to propose today! I had apparently given him some grief at Christmas about not asking me then… I really don’t remember; the sloe gin had overtaken me obviously, but he knew then that The Question would get a positive response!

So, I appeared in the lounge and he popped The Question.  We spent the next hour 1546046_10152481881004045_1977100360_nlaughing, crying, and arranging the beautiful flowers in all the vases I could muster. As the evening progressed, it transpired that we both wanted to be married soon. I certainly hadn’t appreciated the chain of emotional events that would be set in motion by a proposal that I thought I was prepared for. It was a wonderful and happy period; we both felt it was right and were delighted by the effect it had on our relationship; a settling happened, like a bird onto her eggs, a peaceful and contented sense was with us.

Maybe because of this goodwill things happened quickly and easily. By the end of January we had the major pieces lined up; a venue; a photographer; a florist; a dress; a guest list; and, most importantly, a date, only 13 weeks away at the start of May. This was quite a lot to manage already, but I was relishing my role as the wedding planner.

And then we took a turn out to look at a few houses in South Shropshire, just to “see what it was like to look”. We had talked, sensibly, about waiting to see houses until after the wedding, but we are both impetuous sometimes and were drawn to the temptations of Rightmove. Unsurprisingly perhaps, given our desire to find a home for our new life, some houses talked to us. So, under the guise of “exploring Shropshire”, a place I am drawn to for no rational reason, we picked three that were well placed for a day trip of viewing.

We saw the Glass House last. It was magnificent on the brochure pictures, a splendid architecturally designed upside-down house with a striking full length conservatory and balcony. It had been my secret favourite all along and I hoped for something wonderful as after seeing the other two properties I was a bit disappointed; they had seemed much more bleak and dismal than I had wished for. It was a grim rainy day and by 2pm the sky was darkening. We arrived for our viewing and rushed to the front door, dripping because the heavens had just opened. Once inside we were struck by the warmth and the airiness of the living space and we loved the feel of the downstairs bedrooms, all facing out onto the conservatory. We saw potential loveliness in the gardens (hard to assess really at the start of February) and in the studio and garage/workshop started imagining all sorts of uses and hobbies and fun things we could do…

We left, we were smitten but both trying not to show it. Also we were weary; it was a long day with a drive and all the houses, so we retired to the hotel we had chosen. By the start of the next day after a lovely meal and a long talk followed by a long sleep we had decided we would take the bull by the horns and return to the Glass House to see it again. This morning was, by contrast, a super sunny one and as we sat having tea with the owners we knew we could live in this house and make it our home.

Time has rushed by since then; it is now only 6 weeks to the wedding, and potentially only one more after that until we sign for the house. The finer details of both events are still being sorted out, but it is a superb start to the year of dreams .


Future Proof?

According to the dictionary future-proofing is defined as “to make ready to meet potential future requirements, or make use of potential future opportunities.”  This is what I am doing in my life right now as J and I seek to make plans for our future after he retires in August 2014.  It feels a little like herding cats. There are multiple and varied possibilities; travelling, boating, house purchasing, not house purchasing, renting, world tours…. you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong, it is a wonderful puzzle to have to solve, but I never knew the future could be dizzyingly rich and varied.

Up until now, it seems, I did not lift my head out of the “work-and-house-owning” more conventional route. I left school and went straight to University, I left there and went straight to work – at no time did it cross my mind to choose to travel or break out of the rut. At 18 or 21 I was not adventurous enough to try this, although folk around me did go off inter-railing, but I did not feel I was missing out (this was the 80s – maybe a bit before gap years became de rigour). My parents did not encourage breaking free, or being different, and I complied with expectation; I married and owned houses, and worked and paid a mortgage… My life was on a straight train track, a single unwavering line towards a retirement that seemed, and indeed was, many years away.

Then I met and fell in love with J. This blew up the straight track I was on and, if I might stretch the metaphor, I think I moved off a train track and on to a sea… a vast swelling ocean that disappeared over the horizon with no markers or landmarks, no obvious direction of travel, and no suggestion that this situation would alter anytime soon. Now life could be anything, or everything, and I would have to take responsibility for my choices consciously and honestly; no more could I rely on conventionality to forge my path, or feel I could devolve the responsibility for living my life to fate or family ties.

So, I face my new future squarely, one with many precious opportunities. The official date it begins is now determined, and it is only 10 months away! Can I future-proof this future? There are many bridges to cross to get there, although it appears we may first have to build these bridges. Most importantly we have to choose where they go, which rivers we cross, how we want to live this life.

Also, we have to do some proper planning. The back to basics, nut and bolt budgeting and project management:  What can we afford? What do we want do with our stuff?  Where do we want to end up? Again, many questions and not so many answers yet.

I am lucky to have so many choices, and I now feel more adventurous and freer than in any time previously in my life; so much more ready to meet any future requirements. Given this, I intend to make use of any and every upcoming opportunity that takes my fancy in this possibility laden future.