Sunday, 14 April 2013

More words than I usually write in a week

If I were to write a manifesto - and apparently anyone with a wifi connection needs a manifesto these days - it might go a little like this:

I believe in the all-encompassing spirit of Life and its manifestation in Nature. I believe my purpose here is to rediscover and nurture my place in the flow of Life, my place as a creature-expression of that force. I can discover how to do this through physical, intuitive, emotional, mental, spiritual, creative and scientific exploration. I believe in becoming part, and facilitating the smoother flow of the Everything. That is our purpose, whatever physical form it may take.

Because we are different strands of Life, different notes in the song, we will sound different, you and I, while both contributing to the beauty of the whole. The sum of our parts is awesome in the true sense of the word. There may be areas where we overlap and harmonise.

In this wild and beautiful flow, we all are at our best expressing our individuality in what way we can, as much as we can, with love and compassion. We share the overflowing good vibes we get from this by supporting others on their path to self-expression. Those 'others' may be animal, vegetable, mineral or non-corporeal. We're all on the same team. We ARE the team. The team is an entity in itself.

But I don't think that the self-expression path to contributing our bit to the greater good is for all of us. For some, the path is more tangled with others. Both paths are sacred and precious.

The misappropriation of the instruction to reach for your own oxygen mask first pushes my buttons. If you're on a plunging plane, sure, go for it. If you're trying to decide between taking your child to essential medical care or staying home because your poetic muse is getting snippy and wants some action, my guess is you're going to secure that kid's mask first. "Sorry honey, I know you're in excruciating pain but Mama needs to feel like she's got her groove on before she can think about that." Yeah right. Extreme? Yes, but you know what I mean.

I'm not talking about martyrdom, that is one ugly thing. I'm talking about having other beings or issues that are so intertwined with you that you cannot simply cut them loose when you want to pursue a dream. We are experiencing life in a physical form, with physical restrictions. We are all equal. We all have dreams in our hearts - all of us -  but the greater good is not necessarily met by every last one of us pursuing them right here, right now. Maybe our self is best expressed in a group setting with a regular pay cheque. Maybe in the home caring for loved ones. Maybe we will have or already have had or are currently having other physical lives in which to give that a go, I don't know. Maybe we all get a turn one day. Who knows?

Because, away from all this armchair philosophy and its self-selecting audience, there is a planet full of other notes in the song. They don't know or care about 10 Steps to Authenticity or Three Things That Will Blast Your Blog To Universal Domination. Seriously. They do not give a shit. That, for most people in this world, is not what life is. Life is either about things far-removed from the internet and way more interesting or time-consuming, or it's at a way lower level of Maslovian needs. And if you choose to tell me that the people still working away down at the first two or three levels are somehow less worthy than those of us who have the freedom to spend time pursuing dreams (be it a dream of art, science, Olympic medals or anything else) then I will respectfully choose to tell you to f*** off.

There is a lot of talk in our privileged circles of The New Paradigm and I am a believer in it. I believe that a tipping point will be reached and slowly, bit by bit and horribly messily, the world and its many cultures will change. Over centuries probably. To reach that tipping point we need pioneers, trailblazers, mentors, teachers and yes DREAMERS! It is the creative, the outliers in all cultures who see the possibilities.

I'm saying this...if you want to be one of those people who teaches and mentors and inspires and finds pathways for the rest of the world, then you better not be up there talking bullshit. If you are the real thing then I love, admire and salute you. Most of you will do real good in a tiny circle for a tiny amount of time. We are a blink of Life's eye but we are beautiful. However, if you are just one of the thousands of snake oil sellers who is attempting and promising to create clones of yourself I will walk away. Snappy little soundbites and platitudes that fit into 140 characters will not cut it. Selling me your e-book and your Master Plan so that I can rewrite them and sell them to some other poor sucker will not cut it.

People, even people with shitty jobs or no energy left for anything other than survival, are not stupid. They may sometimes be naive but that doesn't last. We are creatures. We see and hear and smell and feel and trust our intuitive senses that tell us that something is rotten, however fancy the wrapping may be. We love what is good and we recoil from what we know to be bad and we are wonderful.

All of us.

~ This post was not a response to, but was inspired by this one. ~

Friday, 12 April 2013

Part of the family

We're a multi-species family. At one point we were feline, human, canine and avian. There'll be no more feline relatives but soon we'll be back to the other three. At least that's what I'd been thinking until this last week. Shaping the life we have into something I could identify as a microholding left me feeling incredibly happy but with a side of unease. As if I were being watched by someone I couldn't see. As if, should I turn around quickly, there would be someone else in the room. Ever get that?

Yesterday, via a roundabout route and not moving very quickly at all, I realised who that silent, expectant observer was. It was our house. If I'd left it much longer I'd have heard a throaty 'Ahem' and felt a shower of stone dust on my face. The house. How awfully remiss of me not to include it.

A ten minute sketch from memory - the back: kitchen, living room, bedroom. South-facing.

Until about 1900 the site where we live was a corn mill used by local farmers for at least a couple of hundred years. Then, either the building was demolished and four linked cottages built in its place, or it was converted. No one seems to know for sure what happened although our landlord maintains the core building is hundreds of years old while the various outhouses tacked on the sides were added in 1900. He says the actual mill was where our kitchen now sits. He's old, but not that old so who knows if it's true? At some point in the last 15 years the two middle cottages were combined so that now there are three homes here. We are on the west end of the L-shaped building and there is an old well outside our kitchen door. The building is tall and narrow and feels like it could have housed a mill. These three homes are known as Mill Cottages, which helps delivery drivers and postmen because there is no street name to go by.

Call me crazy - no seriously, I don't care - but to me if feels as if this old building loves the idea of being a microholding. A place of sustenance and hard work. It feels as if it woke up from a long sleep, read my mind, gave a slow nod and smiled.

I've said before that a building this old, and built, as it is, with the ground floor half underground, is an organic life form. It has sat in the sun and rain and dirt, like the trees that surround it, for more years than they have. Its chimneys are full of jackdaws; its walls and floor spaces are home to field mice; toads still follow some invisible toady path through the kitchen; ivy crawls up many of its walls and many humans have nested in it over the years. Even if it did not start off that way, it has become alive. It has earned living status (damn it, now I'm thinking Robin Williams in Bicentennial Man. Way to break a mood...).

This house and I have not always had the best relationship. I am mean about it in the winter because I'm a big softie who can't bear the cold. I'm mean about fixtures and fittings that are all broken but really, they're nothing more than dodgy jewellery that humans have fixed to the house. The blood and bones...the wood and stones...I love them, I really do.

So the house is now part of the family. I will listen to it, consider its
feelings, advocate for it and treasure it. I think it deserves a name and so, with a nod to days gone by, our new family member is The Mill.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Small is beautiful

Things have been a bit random here lately I'll confess. That's mostly because I've been busy in my offline life trying to stack the various plates I spin into something holistic. I'm all about the holistic. I've been working this life in my hands and heart, shaping it into something I can be proud of and respect. That William Morris quote about having nothing in your home that you do not consider to be beautiful or useful? Well my life is my home and it's now both useful and beautiful.

A while back, a friend mentioned, with tongue firmly in cheek, the word microholding and I heard the ringy bell thing that my intuition likes to use when it needs to snap me out of a daydream. Since then I've had metaphorical tinnitus. So here it is...a rather lovely definition I found:
Microholding - the pursuit of self-sustainability within both the home and business environments. The winds of change are forever blowing, so we need to secure our own futures, generating our own incomes and living our lives within our own budgets. 
Anyone can create his or her own microholding; there's no limit to how small your micro business need be. It's about … the willingness to pursue the dream of establishing a degree of self-sufficiency, whether by frugal living, frugal working or generating your own income. 
We all need to start somewhere, so don't worry if that somewhere is nothing more than the corner of a room, a tiny garden, a patio or even a windowsill with potted herbs. We each can find space to grow, learn and earn. A smallholding comprises anything from two to 50 acres. In comparison, a microholding fits within anyone's home and/or garden. 
If you ever fancied life as a microholder but don't think you have the time, energy, space, health or wealth to do so, then will power and the ability to adapt … is all it takes to create your very own microholding. Most problems can be overcome in the end. 
Remember - there's no minimum space requirement - a shed, box room, patio, balcony or even your windowsill could provide you with the basis for your own microholding project. Micro, by definition, means very small or suitable for being operated and maintained by one person, so any free space can be adapted. 
The plan is to be as self sufficient as possible, utilising garden space for food production in similar fashion to a smallholding, or in this case a microholding, and/or earning a living by working from home.
See that beautiful line in the middle? 'We each can find space to grow, learn and earn.' Yes, yes and yes. This is where my family is. It's what we've been trying to find but without any kind of map. I'm very happy to start saying, proudly, that we are novice microholders.

Charlie has been building his business for the past three years. For ten years I've worked (part-time since Evie came along) for an organisation I am proud to be part of and nowadays I'm slowly building up a creative project that I'll launch online soon. The aim is to replace one with the other whilst not risking the roof over our heads. As for food, after losing our girls to foxes a year ago, we'll be having chickens again this summer in new, improved accommodation. I'm going to try growing veg again and hope the weather doesn't drown out my efforts. I plan to plant a herb garden. This all feeds into my existing desire to give us a health overhaul. I'm lucky, I have top advice on hand from Jackie at Chestnuts. Chestnuts is a proper smallholding and Jackie is mid-way through her Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design. She is also my aunt (my family layers are weird and cross decades in odd ways) so I'm sorted. She and I have committed to living our second lives the way we really believe we should. Permaculture informs us both. We're also inspired by advice to - I'm paraphrasing - 'Put your head down for six months and work hard. Then look up and everything will be different.' and because I love a good hashtag and, having known each other since my birth we tend to speak in code, we coined #6mhd.

I know some of you are already living this way (Tracie, I'm waving at you) and I can think of at least a few of you who would love to. This is not necessarily about being a 'farmer', it's about a lifestyle that fits our changing world and being a positive presence within it. If you're anything like me (Tribes, dude. Tribes.), you've thought that your situation means you can't live a life where you have 'space to grow, learn and earn'. I don't believe that anymore. How about you?

We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.
- George Bernard Shaw

Friday, 5 April 2013

Paying in to the trust fund

The worry monkeys got me yesterday and I had no visible escape route.

First it was learning that Zoey's new investigative vet stuff probably won't be covered by her insurance. Then it was thinking that there's a strong possibility that Jackson - on top of the spreading, untreatable, horrible thing on his jaw - could well have failing kidneys. His breath can kill a man at ten paces. Then I started worrying about Evie because I'm her mother and that's what I do. Then about  two of my brothers, each  of whom is going through their own tough time. And before I knew it, that ol' and bills. Always the money and bills. Because with some money we could do more for all these things and they wouldn't be such a worry. I mean, I'm not scared of the death of my loved ones, as much as I hate the idea. I am scared of being unable to pay the vet. I am scared of having to end Jackson's life on the clinic table that terrifies him, because I can't afford to have it happen at home. I am scared that I can't afford painkillers for him or lifelong medication for Zoey should she need it. I am scared that Evie is living a life that is so much less than she needs. I am scared that I am so scared I will never be able to find a way to overcome this lack of ugly stupid cash and my conviction that cash is ugly and stupid (and, therefore, so am I for being so obsessed with it).

Just as I was about to hyperventilate and start throwing stuff around the kitchen while no one was looking - I mean really. I'd stood up and thrown back my head in dramatic despair and everything - someone said,"Please. Trust this. Believe in this life you have. Please." I did a comedy double take even though I knew there was no one else anywhere near me physically. The pleading in that voice brought tears to my eyes. Sadness that my wonderful life thought I'd lost my belief in it.

This is where I should write about how I sank into meditation and journeyed with Whoever and deep in the Everywhen I found peace and everything is fine. I tried because that stuff works for me. I ran a hot bath and planned a long soak realigning my getthefeckonwithit chakra. But it's so stinking cold in our bathroom-with-no-heater-and-no-insulation-and-two-outer-walls-and-a-metal-bath that it was less than lukewarm by the time I got in it and so I just cried because I hate the cold and I couldn't work out which was colder: in water or out of water and neither were getting any warmer. There was no peace even when I went to bed. Teen neighbour had her BFF to stay and her constantly slammed bedroom door sounds like a cannon going off at the foot of my bed. Evie was having nightmares. My worries got completely out of control. I finally fell asleep about 2AM listening to music and woke up an hour later to the sound of a favourite track, only I couldn't understand the words. It was like the Sigur Ros version of an English lyric. I thought I'd had a stroke. The effect wore off, thankfully (much as I love Sigur Ros). I fell asleep again and then woke up outside my body. I kid you not. Hasn't happened in 20 plus years but it still, clearly, freaks me the heck out. Fully conscious and thinking things like,"Oh I have to email X and tell 'em about this. Where did I leave my car keys because I'm going to be SO late for the office in the morning after tonight? Dammit, how do I get back IN again?" That last bit was always a problem for me. Relax readers, I made it. I'm tangibly here.

I got into work this morning and the rest of the marketing and communications team are either a) on leave or b) in a blind panic because the new website's gone live in beta and it's a freakin' mess and the US can't use it and don't even mention Germany. Also there's a huge e-petition we're launching this week and frankly we are not ready and franklier, it's not our fault.

Still, that voice is echoing in my head and I know it was real and I know it was very important that I listen. The words I wrote about being the fire tender are the truest I know and bring with them a vision that I need to keep walking towards. Even if sometimes I get into an almighty mess with it and just want to sit down and eat cake. Hot cake.

I do have good things to write about and nearly did today but I also wanted to talk about the messy and the not pretty and the incredibly unchilled parts of life and how essential they are for showing us the way. Trust me.

[Insert inspirational quote. Avoid Hafiz/Rumi/Oliver/Beck/Godin/Milne. Try: 'Mum do you know why I tell you I love you? First because I do and second because it calms you down.' - Evie.]

Monday, 1 April 2013

In which spring lasts about 12 hours

We got lucky. Easter Sunday started off freezing cold but with blue skies and then the sun came out properly. And it was warm. As in: 'don't have to wear your coat indoors' warm.

I'd spent the morning working on a new project - painting and html-ing and stuff - so when lunchtime arrived and Charlie and Evie were back from an Easter egg hunt at a friend's house, I headed outdoors. A lovely dog walk got me properly warmed up and then Charlie and I set about clearing some of the garden. This sounds lightweight but it's a bit like saying,'Then Charlie and I decided to discover a new bit of the Amazonian rain forest.'

But we did well. Evie helped a little but mostly swung on her swing and biked on her bike and then fell asleep in a post-sugar coma while we worked on, boosted by the extra hour's daylight.

I love these kind of days: lots gets done, team work kind of days. Unfortunately for this blog it's those days that see the camera left on the shelf. I enjoy being shoulder deep in muck and thorns and branches and leaves too much to be faffing about with taking pictures.

Today we are back in sub-Arctic temperatures. I have been sitting in the kitchen in five layers of clothes. Evie is in bed watching a DVD. Charlie is front of the fire, probably watching Columbo. The spaces between rooms (which in this Weasleyesque little cottage means stairways because each room is on its own floor) are to be run through at top speed, moaning about frostbite as you go.

It is time to take the dogs out. For the ageing Brits among you, I may be some time.