My blog is moving to Substack! It feels like a nourishing place to be, plus it's an easy platform for me to use (easier than this set-up). I know this will encourage me to blog more frequently again. It also has a “podcast” option, so from now on I will be recording my posts for those who would like to rest their eyes from the screen.
I’ll likely share one to two communications per week. Always written and recorded. These will be a combination of personal reflections, travel and nature-inspired articles, short stories, children’s stories and poetry.
There may also be any number of other directions and subjects as I embrace the unfiltered and unbound words deep within my mind. I am on a quest for freedom and when I write, I like to imagine we are gathered around my table, talking into the wee hours over a bottle of wine or pot of tea.
Please know that if you are signed up for my newsletter you will still hear from me on a monthly basis. I plan to share a few words, plus links to two chosen readings from that month. If you never want to miss anything I post, you can subscribe directly on Substack.
I hope to see some of you there.
I’m not quite sure where to start, so I’ll just start.
Life has been tough this past year. I cared for my mum and then she died. Just three weeks later my 34-year-old niece died, too.
In the throws of unimaginable grief, my dad went into hospital and thus followed months of caring for him. I can’t even begin to express the stress of trying to walk through six months, grieving for two people I was close to, who I spoke to on the phone every few days, whilst making endless phonecalls, writing numerous emails, chugging up and down the motorway to give 24hr care, and fighting to get my dad what he needed.
To add to that there was the sorting and packing up of the family home for sale, whilst simultaneously moving myself and my own family from the Highlands of Scotland (where we were previously cosy in our yurt), back to the South of England and onto a narrowboat that was riddled with teething problems—no running water, no electricity, cooking by head torch, you get the idea—so that we could be closer to the support network our daughter (our sweet daughter, who is always bubbly and happy but who, despite outward appearances, has felt these tragic losses very, very keenly) so needed.
And all of us, frankly.
In the middle of all this I got sick. Really sick. For a month.
I can’t quantify the emotional heartache, the physical toll, so I won’t try. But needless to say, since I crashed at the end of December as my dad finally settled into his new flat and recovered, most of my hair has fallen out, I suffer with what feels like physical pain, and some days I struggle to find joy.
Other days I do discover it, of course, by focusing on the small things.
My days look like this:
I don’t put any more pressure on myself, and seeing other people? I just can’t right now. It’s not because I don’t love friends, or that people haven’t been sweet souls, it’s just I don’t have the energy for conversation. And here’s the thing: people offer so much when you first face the death of loved ones but within a few months I feel my own unsaid rule descend, that I shouldn't be still whining on about how low I'm feeling.
Yet grief—real grief—for me, has come six months after the losses. This could be partly because I didn’t have a choice but to plough on for my dad, my daughter… But it could also be that we can’t process—don’t want to process—loss, until much later. That’s when, one day, six months on, you wake up in the night with grief tearing at your insides and you don’t know how to stop it from dragging you down. And yes, I know people die every day, and people contend with unbelievable traumas in every.single.moment, and I’m lucky to be here! But when something is clawing at you, you can’t always fend it off no matter that insight. Right now I also think things are compounded with the loss I feel for the life we once had. Our life of freedom, of travelling Europe in a van pre-Brexit and pre-Covid. As well as processing the absolute stress I put my body through last year. Ooof, life heh!
But the one thing (aside from work, walks, family time) that helps, is writing. And not Instagram posts, I’ve found. But real, intentional, heartfelt writing. The kind of writing that might belong on a blog. Which people take the time to visit only when they truly want to read your words. So I’ve decided to pour my thoughts into blog posts, and my time into working on short stories, poetry, articles, as well as working through the first draft of an old (unpublished) book with a red pen.
An acquaintance demonstrated pretty much how I feel about social media right now after they “liked” an image of my niece. A few days later in a message exchange, they said, “Oh, I didn’t realise she died, I just liked the picture.”
What have we become?
I’m done—for a while anyway—with scrolling, swiping, liking. I need something more nourishing. I’m longing for the more heartfelt connections of the blogging world that once was. Is it still out here? On my first foray back into some blogs I once enjoyed, it seems there is a similar feeling floating around, which excites me because I need to be nourished by words. And, right now, I need this space. A place to hold my messy, grammatically incorrect but RAW thoughts. A place that might not always be pretty, but is my place to say what I like.
Even writing this now. Hammering at the keys. Letting it all pour out. Goodness, I had forgotten how freeing and therapeutic blogging was! Back in the days when we didn’t care if editors were loitering. And no, I’m not saying we can’t make meaningful and wonderful connections on social media—of course we can! It’s just that scrolling to get to the essence is tiring. And I’m tired already.
Maybe some of you are out there still. Maybe not. But I’ll be here, and on my newsletter, sharing snippets of life.
I’m pretty certain future posts won’t be as rambling as this one, but when it’s been a while and you know you have to say something but you’re not entirely sure how to say it, bashing it out feels good.
So thank you to anyone who has read this far, for allowing me the space to empty my mind.
I think I’ve just fallen back in love with blogging.
In winter 2020 we returned from Portugal and found ourselves living with friends in the Scottish Highlands. They said, stay! We said, yes! And so we set about having a yurt built and creating a space to site it on our friend's property.
It was a magical time and I want to mark it with these photos because I never really got around to writing too much about the experience, given how 2021 panned out. And I'm sad, because I miss the peace of this place. I miss the silence. I miss my cosy circular home. So somehow this gallery is just to mark this thing we did as a family. This amazing and important time in our life that filled us with joy.
The smell of woodsmoke on a dank late afternoon, eerie plumes snaking their way across the darkening canal like thoughts I no longer want emptying from my mind.
Wet ropes, cold fingers, old gloves—there is no fashion show needed.
The joy of leaping from deck to towpath, easing our hulk of a home to its mooring. Metal on metal rings through the air as I bash pins in; the delicious weight of mallet in hand.
Looking around at the view — a new view, every day if the fancy takes you — and spying a "sunshine" tree right outside our window.
Being rocked to sleep as a boat passes slowly in the darkening night. Waking to watch the sunshine tree come to life at first light.
The sound of ice cracking around my ears in winter, fish and ducks nibbling at the waterline in spring and summer, the raining down of magical leaves in autumn.
Reflecting in the watery ripples that soothe my mind.
Then there is the shunting, rocking, manouvering - the throwing of ropes, jumping to other boats, ducking to tie up; slipping on mud.
Mud. Mud. Mud.
The smell of a boatyard—heavy, oily, like my dad's workshop—the cheery faces, "just chuck us a fiver mate."
And the peace. Always the peace.
The taking ourselves off to the countryside where we watch the sliver of a moon appear and disappear behind cloud, our gaze stretched across endless fields—from pitch black to orange glow.
But being in that glow if we want. And after the year we have had, perhaps that's the main reason afterall:
A home that moves, so we can be close to loved ones as we need and wish.
Nothing can replace our beautiful Highland hideaway - our yurt in the stone circle. But at least we experienced it, no matter for how short a time. And if there is anything I have learned this year, it's that our time here can be short so we must grasp every opportunity and absorb it with utter delight, yet not be afraid to leap as needed.
So now; now it's back to boats, to living afloat. And trying to write words again that right now feel jarred—lost somewhere in the depths of my mind but somehow, slowly finding their way out, albeit in mixed-up ways.
Grief layered upon grief.
How to rise up from beneath?
How to breathe with the weight
Of all that is lost
Of all you have left behind.
Bad things happen to good people
And you were of the sweetest kind.
So now we trudge through,
We ache with pain
We reel in anger
Whilst retaining strength for your boys
Who were your world,
Who are now all that matter.
My beautiful niece (who was more like my kid sister), Jay.
Flying high with the angels and her beloved Grandma.
June 1987 – August 2021
Life is precious. Kindness is everything. Tell the people you love what they mean to you. Hug them, show them. Enjoy each and every moment, because we can never know when our time here will be over.
Grief comes in waves.
Sometimes like needles; fast and painful.
Other times like a blanket; soft and gentle.
And I miss her, my mum.
Yet there is so much more undone.
To face, reason with, and explore.
But for now I simply seek beauty in each step,
Whilst forever missing those words:
“I love you, pet.”
My mum: October 1938 ~ July 2021
I walk early, before the world wakes. I want to stride out and feel nothing but joy for the hedgerows brimming with summer flowers and grasses that wave; knowingly. But instead I saunter silently, my beloved four-legged friend by my side, methodically plodding.
We learn from our friends—both animal and human—and right now I am open to receive those lessons: to slow, listen, be kind to myself.
Some days I do yoga in a daze, looking out to the green with a hunger to feel something. Anything. I fall asleep in meditations, lost to lingering longings. On other days I bounce and smile and laugh, gulping up each drop of delight.
Because life’s like that. Isn’t it?
And so I am grateful for friends who share this journey. For souls who dig deep, see beyond all that we—all of us—put on display. Friends who welcome and share, who do not hide behind walls for protection. For friends who are open and honest, wild and free; who give their love without question.
But mostly, today, I am grateful for the most loyal friend of all, and the walks we still get to share, no matter how slow.
Words: 1 July 2021
Photo: June 2009, French Pyrenees.
And so it is, that I went away and then came back—both on screen, and in reality. And both leaving and returning at times feel like being submerged in water, gasping for air as the onslaught of expectations, responsibilities, ideas and thoughts drown out all sound.
So when I can I have been sitting here, quietly staring out. Sometimes in tune, sometimes so out of tune I’m not sure where I belong anymore.
I miss the road. I miss the freedoms I took for granted. I miss being able to run away when I need to. I miss those first few delicious moments that can stretch into months, when you travel slowly. Those moments where everything is new and clean—like snow—with no mistakes.
But I know we cannot always run. Sometimes we must sit; sit with the heaviness of what is required and expected. Sit with the parts of ourselves we do not care to remember, or sometimes even dislike. Sit with all the junk this stirs up in our minds and try to make some kind of sense.
Sit and simply be until something takes shape beneath restless feet.
We are right where we need to be—I keep telling myself this. And right now I am here in this space online, here in this circular space looking out, with my oldest dog pressed against my side following a mini-stroke and, when I can be, I find myself by the side of my poorly mum, too.
And I’m sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes calm, sometimes mad…but here all the same.
I sit on a stone from a long time past, hands cold as my fingers dance up and down the recorder. Dried gorse rages the fire into life and our friends walk from across the way, smiling through the dark to Highland Mary.
The moon glows in her halo of gold—of cold—and looks down knowingly. The pitch black sky stretches out across the glen; wide and open, long, and filled with possibility. But we… we sit in the warm embrace of this circle of trees, this circle of stones; a circle that has called us home.
Juliette de Bairacli Levy (a herbalist and wanderer I greatly admire) once said that wherever she travelled there was always a little corner of land, or a simple home, available to her. Well it seems our joyful (yet unexpected) return to this croft in the Highlands of Scotland, has brought us to a corner where we can now rest our own weary feet a while.
As Juliette also said:
“Every land has its own special rhythm, and unless the traveler takes the time to learn the rhythm, he or she will remain an outsider there always.”
It has been a while since we have felt the pull to root down, but now the feeling is so strong that as I write this my heart feels light and fluttery, yet my feet—grounded. This land is special and I am awed every day as we walk through winter in her embrace. Trees call to me, earth grasps me, and the sky envelopes me. We are still travellers, but here we are, ready to throw down anchor long enough that we may know and learn the rhythms of this Highland space.
We have come to rest a while; the land says so.
And so that means a dwelling, one fit for these nomadic hearts that so long to stay connected with the earth. One befitting this circle of ancient stone and tree, where robins dwell and hearts swell; where all feels drawn from each corner of our life, towards this central point. So we asked,
“But what shall we live in dear circle?”
And she replied, “Why, a house of sticks of course!”
Driving into the Cairngorms on a day of snow and spectacular skies, we visited a man about a yurt and now the course of our life has taken shape and we have never been more glad, more excited, more in tune.
As poems flow this Burns night
As music dances in our circle
We know we have come to rest
Amongst this land and people.
There is a deeper whisper
There is a hidden call,
And if you listen carefully
It says, “Here you are home.”
And so this Highland Glen
And so this Northern sky
Upon and beneath
We will rest a while.
The other day an interview I took part in twelve years ago was brought to my attention. I ended it by saying,
“I don’t fear change; I embrace it. Whatever happens it will always lead to something else and I never want to live my life wondering what would have happened ‘if’ … the day I don’t follow that if, is the day I will feel that I’m not really living.”
Wise words from my younger self, and so we are embracing this unexpected change and throwing ourselves wholeheartedly into log cabin extensions (facilities) and a yurt base, ready for the arrival of our new home in the spring.
Beneath the Wolf Moon
My heart slows
And I stand
Lost in thought,
In darkness mixed with light
Longing to meld with all that is bright.
In February 2022 I moved my blog to Substack. There you will find weekly writings (with audio option also), plus you can sign up to have them delivered direct to your inbox.
I hope you will join me there!
Blogs I Enjoy
Our Life Handmade
Raised on Earth
Taking a Kinder Path
Wing and Lens
Carol Anne Strange
I.A.S. Natural Horse Training