This week I am aware of the drop in temperature here in Scotland, and all the indeluctable (is that a word? no; having looked it up I think I mean ineluctable) signs of the fading of summer into beyond-harvest: the squirreling away of resources towards winter.
I have already started to wear the “toastie” oversocks made for me by my friend M, in Caithness, and to light my wood-burning stove with pine, larch and fir cones gathered near the home of my friend A. I’ve made a tiny amount of rasperry jelly from the pippy wildling raspberries that edge our garden to the northwest, and have warmed the kitchen with the heat and fragrance of a slipper-loaf enriched with seeds that I bought early in Lockdown.
Today I’ve been harvesting nearly-the-last of the Braod Beans (Deliberate spelling mistake there becasue that’s how Broad Beans appeared in the list of things my father wasn’t allowed to eat, when he developed kidney disease in the 1970s. Other forbidden fruits were “cheeries”, and his much loved bananas, Poor Eric …).
As well as providing protein in my diet (and for Stephen, Grandad of Next Door, who makes soup of them with cumin, onion & potato) they improve the soil through the nitrogen-fixing activity of micro-organisms in their very visible root nodules, which either will get dug in to my sandy soil direct, or via the compost heaps (three, and counting…).
Such are the small and vital pleasures of September for me, and we still haven’t reached the Autumn Equinox.
A week ago I ventured inland, to visit the croft where lives my friend “Roberta”, with her family of rescue horses, dog and pheasants, and from our garden seats we gazed out over the strath. We did a lot of voice-hugging and laughing, possibly even a bit of crying.
(It was drizzling, so I’m not sure what were raindrops and what were tears.)
Afterwards I drove home via Lairg, where I met a Norwegian Elk-hound called Trudi, who had strayed far from home and attached herself first to two couples from Tain, and then to me (we had a lovely cuddle before she was reunited with her owner, who had had the forethought to put a phone-number on Trudi’s collar).
I remembered yet again why I love living in this northern Highland community, where to say “hello” to someone is to know them, and often to love them. And where I find that any two friends new to me probably know each other already. As is true of Roberta and Andie.
Enough of going outwards, although I have much more to share on that theme. Now for turning inwards, which is often a theme for me – reflective, contemplative, introverted – in the autumnal approach to winter …
… and as a break with the BrainDump and Golden Threadwork structure, today I am offering you another “looser” expressive activity, of a type that I also recommended here, way back in March 2020 when I began this year-long commitment to write our way whole: at home.
‘Drawing close to the heart’
is a tool that I summarise as:
Choose, use, stream, dream
First of all:
Choose four words/names for aspects of your life that are important to you
Use a piece of blank paper, preferably A3
but it can be smaller. Have to hand a nice pencil, felt tip pens or sharp crayons, a pencil sharpener …
What shape do you feel drawn to today? Draw it, large, in the centre of the page. It needn’t be a hard line.
(Today personally I might draw the shape of an acorn: some readers will guess why.)
Inside it – without thinking, just writing – pour out from your present experience. Just enough – an aid to future memory, if you like. Be quick: keep the pencil going, no perfection! You can flow out of the shape, or not use it all.)
In each of the corners quickly draw or write something representing your four chosen themes. Again, what feels appropriate, just now? You can add extra words or symbols in these corners, and you can experiment with using a range of colours.
You get to choose.
Then date your page; sign it too if you wish
Display it, or store it in a special place to look at again soon.
And repeat the exercise as often as you like, over the coming weeks and months.
And here as another meditative path is a link to a friend’s website, to a post where Hope offers her reflections on contemplation and silence.
Whereas if it’s vigour and liveliness you need right now, what music would you put on for a jiggle around your sitting room? Maybe you could share a link to a suitably rousing track, in Comments.
Finally, I’m giving you a few of my own “gratefuls” here, while encouraging you to record your own below.
Your appreciations …
Today I am grateful for:
… and mine
Today I am grateful for:
~ insights from The Mystery School at The Way of the Buzzard about the special qualities of Seal – curiosity and playfulness – which I could do well to remember;
~ an opportunity to chat to two dogs from Yorkshire (and their owner) on the shore this morning, and to sit quietly with a wind-stranded puffin (alas, dead) below the dunes;
~ the friendship of people with whom I have been dancing online – one in Berlin, one in Oslo, one in South Africa – and whom I wouldn’t have met if not for this challenging pandemic;
~ apricot jam that I made from “expiry date bargains” earlier in the summer, and now delicious with yogurt.
I do remember Eric‘s great love for bananas, often mentioned by my parents after a half term trip to ??21 Meadway when you had moved south. I think before that point it hadn’t been apparent but staying with you emphasised the point.
I will write more soon, I promise! I keep thinking ‘I must tell Kathy this, and that, and so on…..’
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Yes, when we moved to Granby Avenue there was a little corner shop – well, round the corner. He used to call in on his way home from work (a two-mile walk across Harpenden Common and up and down Crabtree Lane) to see if the lady had saved him his favourite black, over-ripe treat. She was glad to get them out of the shop… and Eric got something for nuffink! And we once had a grass snake in the compost heap, so the ‘nana skins probably generated nice warm decomposition system such as these snakes like for home central heating…
As for your memories, you could jot them down as and when the Muse urges… (though not whem driving, which is when I often get inspired, particularly if driving over Hills Road railway bridge in Cambridge.. how odd is that?)
Just a phrase or “title” is enough as a reminder … I find just the act of making a note earlier, helps to reinforce an idea and lets it “set”. So that later when you start to write more fully, the stories flow more freely.
And just reading this over, doesn’t it put our parents into a comic light, jesting over bananaphilia? Musaphilia? Fyffesphilia? I can still hear your mum’s lovely laugh!
…and your mum’s (laugh) too!! When we cleared mum’s apartment after her death I came across her little ‘recipe file’ (essentially an office file box, she wrote recipes on the cards); I was expecting to find the recipe for flapjack that your mum had written out in her unmistakable hand, complete with illustrations, and ‘tum-tested guarantee’ written like a stamp (ink not postage…) Alas it wasn’t there and I was so disappointed…
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Thank you for this beam of brightness this morning, along with the shadow of diasspointment. By writing this, Gilly, you are gifting me with two things:
a) the inspiration to release a “writing our way whole: at home” on “handwriting”, and
b) the incentive to get The Beloved to send me from Cambridge some things in my mum’s hanndwriting (strangely i do not have any here in Brora) and then I can provide you witha sample. I am very very moved and touched that this feels important to you. Thank you for warming me (and I still have my pyjamas on, at lunch time – the decadence of it!) ❤
I’m smiling that I’ve warmed you. Today we’ve lit a fire, first of the season, and I’m sitting beside it catching up with all my emails etc (normally I’d be upstairs in my faffing room); I’m feeling so very toasty it’s just delightful! Yesterday lighting a fire was never further from my mind as I worked away in the garden, clearing and transplanting in that ‘end of summer’ way, and peeling off layers as the sun warmed my back…
As the saying goes, it’s a strange world we live in.
I struggle with tiredness and pain all the time (24/7) and due to these my mental health declines rapidly. I’m one of those people that requires a lot going on, distractions I call them. But my distractions, distractions that I choose to be part of my life. I no longer have the ability to walk for hours, enjoying the hills of Ben Bhraggie, Struie, or even further afield and higher peaks. With lockdown my energy levels dropped, I find even driving the short loops of Loch Brora and Croick tiring.
As you know I dabble with the written word. My dabbling is nothing more than for my own enjoyment, although of course, I want other people to read and comment on my stories. This last fortnight has seen me hit a low within the writing world, I realized it had become a job, that was never my intention.
I decided I needed a break from the writing, not just my own, but from other authors. I had almost two whole weeks away from the keyboard, I say keyboard as opposed to PC as I play chess every day. I also delved into the art world, another enjoyment I’d been neglecting. It was this neglect and overdoing the writing that drove my downward spiral of depression.
Using that wonderful invention, Youtube, I enjoyed the tuitions of pastel and pencil artists. I tided the art-room, plucked up the courage to spoil the paper and found my love once again. It is like a weight being lifted, an inner peace.
And then through my mailbox a great post, “drawing close to the heart”. A lovely photo of lichen on Silver Birch (?), a lost Elk Hound, warm socks, visits to friends, and the memory of Braod Beans.
And now, you have encouraged another of my distractions, the need to write again.
Thank you, Kathy
Thank you for your appreciation, Bramel, and for enjoying the lichen. I think it was probably on rowan rather than birch, in the “garden” at Ferrycroft Centre in Lairg.
I love lichens and mosses, both the smell of their haunts, and their sheer painterly textures and forms. Sometimes I am tempted to learn to identify them and call them by their “proper” names. Mostly though it is enough, and indeed preferable, just to enjoy their essences and individualities, and the sense of ancient landscape that I feel in their wild presence.
Perhaps your plangent words about the “aaah” of finding the art-love again, of becoming at home with the paper and your hand moving across it, will pull me closer to my watercolour paints again… I hope so, and that your mood continues to lift, and your spirit too.
So good to hear that you are emerging into the daylight Bramel and that the extraordinary setting of La Mirage at Helmsdale has cheered you on your way!.
Its reputation is such that in Dornoch two years ago I met an elderly “midwife to Sutherland and Caithness” who said “always ask for half portions, and mention my name (which I forget now – Mairi?) to the chef”.
When I took my friends Angela & Steve there last year, I did just that, and the staff knew exactly who I meant, and were extra-nice to us on her behalf!
Thank you for the invitation to join you on this writing journey. When you spoke of music, Manfred Mann’s Plains Music sprang to mind xxxx https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaYq79Ou3Rc
That’s such a wonderful suggestion – thank you! I am sitting here with my enormous headphones on, enjoying the entire album in all its resonance and richness. As I am rather deaf, wearing a decent set of headphones is a lovely – and relatively recent – route to wraparound sound. Particularly enjoying the saxaphone, and the reverb on the guitars, and – well – all the things! Thank you again xx