Looking Forward to a Slow Year

Another year has whooshed by. I feel like I stepped out for intermission, and when I came back the show was over. As this new year begins, I’m contemplating how I can stretch the time out, engage fully and be present through the passage of days. I’ve been thinking about this idea of slow living a lot. We have slow food, slow stitching, even slow travel. I want to live slow. I wondered if like the other slow movements slow living was also a thing.

Lo and behold! It’s a hashtag, and apparently has been for quite some time. Since moving to Australia four years ago, I’ve seriously unplugged from the internet, as is evidenced by my infrequent blog posts. I do a quick morning scroll through Facebook to see what my US or traveling friends are up to, then a glance at Instagram for a dose of pretty pictures, and that’s pretty much it. Rarely, I will get sucked into Pinterest, and I almost never read blogs anymore, unless there is some particular subject I’m wanting to know more about, such as slow living.

I started poking around to see what others were saying about the subject. According to Wikipedia, “Slow living is a lifestyle emphasizing slower approaches to aspects of everyday life.” That sounds good. Then I started looking for those hashtags that I usually ignore. That’s where I found the insta-version of slow living. This version seems to be about arranging your life just so, in order to be instagramable and beautiful, having the hip products and accessories to place in those photos. It’s more consumerism. One more ideal to live up to. Another good impression to be made for a faceless internet world. Something else to stress over.

Although it’s become a fad, I do believe that on some level it is based on a longing for a simpler, quieter way of being. People just got waylaid again by that need for outside approval.

My own idea of slow living is about ridding my life of the distracting clutter, not just the physical clutter that the blog posts tell us to tackle, although that is definitely a part of it, but the mental noise. It’s about defining my priorities and values, focusing on them, and letting go of the pointless activities that don’t support my goals. It’s losing the “shoulds” nagging me in my brain to live up to the perceived expectations of others.

It’s about being still.

My lesson in stillness began last May, while I wiled away the quiet hours inhaling the scent of my newborn granddaughter.

And then I lost sight of it again.

Upon returning home from ten sedentary weeks in the US, I was over-eager to get back to my exercise routine. A lapse in judgement led me to think I should take up running as well. I was very aware that this choice to run was based on a desire to metaphorically run away. I didn’t really want to run away; I simply wanted that feeling of breaking free from whatever was holding me back in life.

But, no. There would be no running anywhere. The Universe, Fate, my arthritic hips – something – stepped in to say, “yeh neh, you’re not going anywhere, mate. Sit right down and have a think about life for the next few months.” (read this with an Aussie accent)

I found myself mostly housebound from late September through mid December. Unless my husband drove me somewhere, I was staying put. No more treks about town, no hopping on trains to go explore this suburb or that. I was angry and frustrated and scared. I had lots of FOMO. I was going stir crazy and had to make the most of this enforced stillness or else fall into a depression. I was quite surprised that didn’t happen.

My doting husband took exceptional care of me. It was a marvel to sit back and allow myself to be cared for, attended to. This unfortunate circumstance that hobbled me allowed him to fill the space that opened up when I sat quiet. Through these long months he has been there, patient, kind, loving. The stillness made room for a new intimacy to grow between us.

The quiet time has allowed me to see what is truly important to me. I have had to learn that it’s ok to be idle and do nothing. I tend to buy into the busyness and productivity model of what a successful life looks like. I feel lazy reading books, even though it’s an activity absolutely in alignment with my priorities. Through intensive reading I both expand my mind and I improve my writing skills. Spending time on the internet researching Slow Living induced feelings of guilt, of wasting time. Doing even less can make me nervous indeed. In his book The Importance of Living Lin Yutang tells us that great ideas are born from an idle state. He writes about the art of lying in bed doing nothing. He says to curl up with big soft pillows and to place your arms behind your head. “In this posture any poet can write immortal poetry, any philosopher can revolutionize human thought, and any scientist can make epoch-making discoveries.”

As the weeks pass, I am becoming aware that as well as being allowed to spend time doing nothing, I also don’t have to do everything. The world isn’t falling apart and I feel happy. My new goal for life has become to live it, to embrace joy and fully engage with life, not rush through it. As I regain my mobility, I want to be careful not to lose sight of this new goal. I have another tendency and that is to get all excited about an idea, and then forget to actualize it.

In the midst of slowing down, I still have goals I wish to achieve. I still have a house to clean, a novel to finish editing. My challenge is to accomplish these things without driving myself crazy again. I want to be flexibly organized. I want rhythm, not routine. In her A-Z List of Simple Living, Brooke McAlary of Slow Your Home says of being organized, “You need to leave space for life to happen.” She also talks about the concept of “tilting.” This was a major takeaway for me. I’m always trying to achieve balance in my life, my days. “I’ll devote an hour to this and an hour to that and an hour to…” but there were never enough hours in a day or a week to do everything I thought I should be doing. McAlary says balance is a myth, that instead it’s ok to tilt toward one priority or another as the circumstances call for. Tilt the other way another day.

Right before my hips went out, I had jumped on the Bullet Journal bandwagon. I did see enough of the internet to hear of that particular thing. Mostly my entries in the journal have been about healing and pain levels. I’m ready now to delve a bit deeper into the process and use the method to stay on task and attain my goals. Sometimes I believe that the tools that are supposed to help us focus can become a distraction in themselves. Another bit of pop culture that has sifted through to my consciousness is the extreme decorating of Bullet Journal pages that people do. It seems like another time sink. Although, I can see how for some this could be a meditative practice and if that aligns with their values, then good for them. For me, there is the danger of it becoming another stress inducer as I buy into the belief that my BuJo needs to be pretty.

If I can follow the basic principles of the Bullet Journal method, I suspect it will be a great help. In his book The Bullet Journal Method Ryder Carroll says it is in the intersection of productivity and mindfulness where you find intentionality. Living with intention is what I believe slow living is about. Ryder says that “mindfulness is the process of waking up to see what’s right in front of us. It helps you become more aware of where you are, who you are and what you want.” The Bullet Journal is meant to be a method of bringing your actions into alignment with your values and priorities.

Both McAlary and Carroll talk about “knowing your why”. Why do I want to slow down and simplify my life? Because I want to be here now. I want to embrace life and live abundantly. I want to witness the small wonders, like watching videos over and over of my granddaughter laughing, or seeing the morning sun drifting through the kitchen window. I want to focus on my priorities of health, marriage, writing, family and friend relationships, and exploring this beautiful world.

As I move forward into this new year, I aim to take with me the lessons in stillness that I’ve been learning over the last few months. I’m going to make a card to hang where I see it often. It will list my values and priorities, and I will make a habit of reading it often and asking myself, “are my actions right now in alignment with these values and priorities?” I’m going to sit here at my desk, stare out the window at the swaying eucalypts, watching the antics of the butcher birds and magpies, and just be.

Finding a Light in the Darkness

a-light-in-the-darkness-1-of-1As the misty, morning light edged into my consciousness, the waking nightmare seeped in beside it. I reached immediately for my phone, for a connection to the outside world, comfort. My husband is off in New Zealand on business. Squinting at the phone through sleep and tear crusted eyes, I found first a letter of condolence from a dear friend in Scotland. His dry wit even in the face of this tragedy allowed me to start the day with a smile and a chortle before the tears returned.

I was uplifted when I opened Facebook and saw hopeful messages there. People are mourning, as I am, and they are asking, “how can I help to make this better?” This is a frightening turn of events; a hate mongering, racist, misogynist, xenophobe is actually president of our United States, and a whole lot of hate mongering, racist, misogynist, xenophobes put him there. That’s the real scary part, that there are that many out there. I think of my friends of color, my Muslim friends, and those in the LGBTQ community, and imagine how much more compounded their fear must be.

And yet, we have to keep going. We don’t have to sit back and accept this, watch our world crumble, and give over to the despair and hate. The question is, “how do we make a difference?” I want some kind of concrete plan, a to-do list of tasks I can complete and when the list is all checked off the world will be a brighter place. My in-box is so full of emails exhorting me to take action, sign the petition for this cause, donate money for that one. I find it all so overwhelming.

As I read those thoughtful posts in my Facebook feed, I’m reminded that it is love and compassion for others that will pull us through this and create a better world for us all. Just as humans are soft, malleable creatures, so too is our path forward. Yes, we need to sign petitions and donate money, services, time as we can, but we need to spread love too. The way forward is in each individual interaction with our fellow creatures. Just as hate and enmity spreads, so too does love. I have to believe that today. Isn’t that the American can-do spirit? The attitude that made our country great? We can do this. For fuck’s sake let us do this.

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A Change of Season

nature - autumn (1 of 1)Peeking through the bank of native trees outside my study window, I see splotches of the red and orange of a deciduous immigrant. The sun sparkle dances off the leaves creating tongues of flame licking at the blue above. The ground beneath the trees is wet with puddles reflecting leaves and sky, remnants of the rain that pelted us over the last few days.

nature - autumn (2 of 6)According to the calendar, we’ve passed from autumn to winter here down under. The Aussies count their seasons from the first day of the month in which the equinox or solstice occurs. Yet, there are not actually only four seasons here. That’s an idea the Europeans brought with them. In fact, season is not so much a matter of calendar or even temperature as it is of other natural indicators. A couple days ago, we were bundled in wool sweaters and socks with the heater on, and yesterday I had the window open, and the scene from that window looks like autumn.

stitched wheel of the year (1 of 1)I’ve been stitching an embroidered wheel of the year, one meant to represent the seasons of both the northern and southern hemispheres. This awareness and marking of the seasons is a primary tenet of my personal spiritual practice. As I tried to force the Australian seasons to match up with the northern hemisphere round, it became clear that the seasons aren’t just flipped.

Even in the northern hemisphere, “spring” may arrive before or after the Vernal Equinox. As I chose symbols to embroider for each season, I could see how the seasons meld one into the next, and the date of the equinox or solstice wasn’t necessarily an indicator. What is spring in Texas is still winter in Utah. Of course, others will tell me that “spring” in Utah means snow. And in Colorado the locals refer to second and third winter, those heavy, wet snowfalls that cover the land then melt the next day with the return of the sun.

nature - autumn (4 of 6)As I enter my second winter here, I continue to try to wrap my mind around the idea of Australian seasons, to take my brain out of the four season European paradigm, to take a more intuitive approach. I’m learning about the seasons by marking the daily weather conditions in my calendar, and by being aware of which native trees are blooming around me as I go on my walks.

nature - autumn (6 of 6)These kind of natural indicators are how Australia’s Indigenous people have been counting the seasons for the last 50,000 years. The Aboriginal idea of seasons has traditionally been connected to food supply, need for shelter, animal behavior, and the land itself.

seasons of the year D'harawal PeopleI went on an internet search wanting to understand Australia’s seasons from the perspective of the Traditional Land Owners. I found this chart that shows we’re now in the time when the Burringoa, or Red Gum, is flowering. I’ll remember now that when the wind blows drifts of pollen into my living room it’s Tugarah Tuli.

I find nature’s cycles comforting; they ground me in place and time. Now nature tells me it’s time for cuddling on the sofa with afghans, and for baking bread and simmering pots of soup. As I watch the seasons change again and compare this June to last, I’m feeling a growing sense of familiarity in this still new-to-me land; I feel my roots reaching a bit deeper into the Australian soil.

Catching Up

Brisbane (1 of 30)I’ve become a lousy blogger. It’s true; I’ve gone from posting most every day, back in the crafty beginnings of my blog, to posting three times a week, which I thought was really slacking. Now it seems I’ve dwindled down to a few times a year.

I wrote awhile back about deciding what I want my blog to be, and I keep coming back to wanting it to be a documentation of what this journey has been. In years to come, I want to be able to look back on this and remember this crazy thing we did. I also hope it can be of help to other people who are thinking of making such a move. I haven’t been documenting very well!

Yes and no. I mean I keep a handwritten journal, and that of course has all the nitty gritty details that I don’t want to put out in cyberspace for public consumption. And that public consumption would be why I’ve not been posting. I know when we blog, we are making a choice to put ourselves out there. And we choose how much to put out there. Anyone who reads a blog and thinks that now they know a person is mistaken. There are those bloggers who over-disclose. I choose very carefully what I share; sometimes I share personal information, for example in speaking about my depression. I choose to share that because there are so many people out there who struggle with depression and who feel alone. If I can reach one person and let them know they are not alone, then that’s a good thing. I found myself in a situation though, where I felt too exposed, and the thought of blogging made me squeamish.

But you know what? I have a hard drive full of photos of beaches, kangaroos, rivers, gardens, art, historical sites, and other images of adventures we’ve been on here that I need to write about before I completely forget what they are.  So, I’m going to make a concerted effort to get back in the blogging groove.  I’ll be back with some stories of places we visited last year, and I’ll work my way up to the present. I promise. For real this time.

 

Hiding from the Heat and Dreaming of the Sea

A heat wave has hit, and I’m cowering in the shadows with the shades drawn, grateful that our home tends toward the cool.  I dislike hot weather, although I do handle it better than I did back when I had actual hormones coursing through my body, heating things up. I have to go start closing windows here, shortly, to hold back the heat. Air-conditioning is something we left behind in the U.S. Mostly it’s unnecessary. Perhaps even more than heat, I hate being closed up, so I don’t miss the A.C. too much. Yet.

After reading about how we just had the hottest October on record, worldwide, and 2015 looking to be the hottest year, I’m actually quite frightened. I lean more toward The Day After Tomorrow version of the end. You can always put on another sweater, but there are only so many clothes you can take off in public before getting arrested. Besides, I hear that hypothermia is one of the more pleasant ways to expire.

Even without the excess heat, it’s odd to see Christmas decorations and hear Frosty the Snowman playing in the Queen Victoria Building. We’re joining some other American immigrants next week for Thanksgiving dinner. I really hope it’s not too hot to bake the pies I’m in charge of. In a “we’re not in Kansas anymore” moment, it finally occurred to me that my husband doesn’t automatically get next Thursday off.

~

I’ve fallen behind on beach photos, so here ya go!

Collins Flats (1 of 1)

Several weeks ago, we visited Collins Flat beach, over on the harbor side of Manly. I have to say, that while we did manage to have a relaxing afternoon, I wasn’t impressed. The beach was somewhat littered, and the water smelled like fuel from the boats. Hmmm.  Not what I want on my skin, thank you. There are also no restrooms here. I think that only encourages people to pee in the water, something else I don’t want on my skin.

Manly (6 of 56)It was fun to watch the ice cream boat come in! Perhaps it would have been even more fun to eat ice cream, but I think we were attempting to be healthy that day. It didn’t last long, if I remember right; I think we stopped for burgers and beer on our way back to the ferry.

Manly (5 of 56)It’s always fun to watch the little ones! They don’t have to worry about catastrophic climate change yet.

Manly (4 of 56)I couldn’t watch these guys, though. I was sure someone was going to break their neck.

Manly (3 of 56)Don’t you wonder what people’s stories are? I hope those bruises came from learning to surf or extreme tango.

Manly (1 of 56)I like rocks. Massive rocks that say, “I am the Earth! I am your mother! Why do you kids have to cause so much trouble? I brought you into this world and I’ll take you out.”

 

On Finding One’s Strength and a Quick Trip to Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach (3 of 7)I have a dream of learning to surf.  On our very first beach visit here, I formed an image in my head of a woman, about 60-65 years old, walking along the beach in her wetsuit, carrying her surf board, with her long, sea-water-soaked, grey hair flying.  That woman is future me.

I was thinking about this dream the other day.  Thinking about the practicality of this dream, and coming to the conclusion that given my age, fitness level, and the time we’ll have here by the ocean, maybe this is more of a fantasy.

At that moment, I felt future me’s heart break in two.  How could I just dash her dreams like that?  I felt her reach back through time, pleading with me.  I was being so unfair.  I continued to ponder all this, weighing reality against wishful thinking, and reminding myself that just because today I have one reality doesn’t mean that can’t change.

Now I don’t know if I’ll ever really get to learn to surf.  I do know that I have lots of ocean waves I can play in while I’m here.  AND, and this is the most important truth I came to, even if I don’t learn to surf, that image of the strong woman with her grey hair and surf board can be a power symbol I can use to focus on in visualizing success in attaining my goals.  She can be my guide.

I’m not going to let go of the dream of surfing.  I’ll start by taking this course next summer, then move on to this one, and build from there.

I’m curious, what kinds of symbols, imagery, or positive self talk do others use to help spur them on in their goals?  Please share; don’t be shy.

Here are some quick pics of our visit to Bondi Beach:)

Bondi Beach (1 of 7)

Bondi Beach (7 of 7)

Bondi Beach (6 of 7)

Bondi Beach (4 of 7)

Top Ten Things I Miss (that are still in a port in California)

These are the objects I find myself missing the most:

1. My cookbooks
2. My salad spinner
3. My bed

Oh! Wait! No, bed is #1.

Start over.

1. My bed
2. Salad spinner
3. Cookbooks

Oh, no. Hold on. I miss my cookbooks more than I miss the salad spinner, but I NEED the salad spinner more than the cookbooks.

I’ll try again.

bed1. A really comfortable bed

cookbooks12. All my cookbooks, even the ones I left at my son’s house, and the ones I gave away or sold in the yard sale. I want to sit and look at pictures of pretty pastries and cakes and other things I shouldn’t be eating.

3. My salad spinner. Wow, I just realized that I was imagining in my head my old red and white salad spinner instead of my newer, bright green, and better salad spinner. It’s been so long, I am forgetting what I own.

4. The rest of my knitting needles so I can start more WIPs. I brought my best yarn with me.

bowls5. Pretty bowls, so I can make giant salads, mix bread, and even set one on the counter with fruit in it. Oh yes! That really pretty blue pottery bowl that Craig bought for me at the SLC farmers market!  I miss that one!

6. All the books I was in the middle of reading, since I am incapable of reading one book at a time or actually finishing a book before I start another.

linens7. Kitchen, bath, and bed linens. I really need more than one hand towel, and some placemats would be fabulous. Here they have a store called Bed, Bath, and Table. They forgot the Beyond.

vase

typewriter8. umm…. well…. oh I know! That pretty turquoise vase, and my Underwood typewriter, because I like to look at it. The ribbon needs re-inked, then I could use it.

9. I guess that’s it. Eight things.

The top eight things I miss, that are still in a port in California (and tentatively scheduled to sail on March 14. Of this year.  I hope. God, I hope they meant this year!)

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This blog post was a bad idea.  As I was searching through my photo archives for appropriate pics, I realized that what I miss isn’t these things, (well sorta) but what I really miss is my home and my family and my friends, my friends who are my family, and Utah, yes, I even miss Utah.

This act of giving up so much to get some other thing you really want is hard.  The conflicting emotions stretch me across the world.  I want to be here in Sydney; I love it here.  AND I miss everything and everybody I left behind.  AND I love the new people we’ve found here.  And the sea, and the shops, and the coffee, and the birds, and the cafes.

Hello March!

townhouse (2 of 4)Last month was a roller coaster of emotion as we went from the highs of just arriving and making new discoveries, to the mid-month lows when it all started to go to shit.  February ended on a nice, even keel as life started to settle into a new kind of normal.

We’re getting settled into our new home, and it’s beginning to feel more and more like a home.  Since the contents of my old kitchen are still in California, I’ve been doing my best to source those items I absolutely need, or at least think I do.

I try not to get too woo-woo very often, and I can tend towards the skeptic, but I am struck again and again with how the Universe will provide.  This last weekend was neighborhood clean up here in Balmain.  People put the items they no longer want out on the curb, and then people pick through it until the trash pick-up comes along.  Salt Lake City has this same thing, but here people throw away perfectly good stuff!  We were on our way out the door to go to IKEA, and we found an entire box of kitchen stuff on the curb.  Coffee cups, a big stainless steel bowl, a nice wok, and a chess set – everyone needs a chess set!

townhouse (1 of 4)This is what I like to call my easy-bake-oven.  It’s about the same size.  I thought all the stoves here were like this until I caught a glimpse of our neighbor’s from her front door.  It’s magnificent.  I am envious.  It’s one of those big fancy ranges you see on Pinterest in big, fancy European kitchens.

townhouse (3 of 4)This is our ‘lounge’ so far.  I have some mad decorating skills!  The furniture we ordered should be here in about five weeks.  We couldn’t justify paying $200 for a foot stool, so decided to wait on that.  Then Sunday, after we took our curb haul into the house, we came back out and found this blue foot stool across the street.  It’s in perfectly good condition; I’ll swap out that fabric for something that matches our new furniture, and it’ll all be good!

townhouse (4 of 4)This is the same room from the other direction.  Do you love that fancy red plastic chandelier?  As I was googling how to spell “bordello” I discovered that they are legal here in Sydney.  I did not know this.

We received word today that our shipment should commence sailing on the 14th.  It’s going to be like Christmas when it all gets here, and we see all the stuff we forgot we had.   We’ll be asking ourselves, “why did we ship this?”

I know there will be a comfort in getting our belongings back again.  Still, I have to wonder about this attachment to stuff.  We’ve gotten along just fine without all of it.  Sure, we’ve had to replace some things that we needed right away, but I’m thinking we don’t really need that 300 cubic feet of whatever it is we shipped to ourselves.  I know there is a mattress in there, my kitchen, and some books.  Cookbooks!  But we could have saved money and headaches by selling it all and starting from complete scratch.  As I packed, I tried to ask myself, “how much will it cost to ship this item vs. replace it when I get there?”  That question helped me let go of a lot of things, and I still kept a lot of things that wouldn’t really need to be replaced; I just like them.

As I look at this mostly empty space here, I think about stuff, and about wanting to decorate, nest, make it a home.  And then I think about what do I do with that stuff when it comes time to leave here?  I don’t want to go through the letting go of stuff again, so I’m half tempted to not put anything in here!  But I will, because I like stuff.  I want to accumulate.  I’m a crow who wants to fill her nest with shiny baubles.

Remedial Shopping

produce (1 of 1)In most of the U.S., everything is vast. Houses are big; kitchens are big; refrigerators are big; and grocery shopping trips fill a mini van.

I like to cook and having a fully stocked pantry and fridge gives me a feeling of security. I think this is an inheritance from Depression era parents. No longer having a vehicle in which to carry home loads of fully laden grocery bags, I’ve had to learn some new techniques.

The first adjustment was the acquisition of a wheelie cart. Not just any wheelie cart, but an insulated wheelie cart. It’s a shopping bag on wheels. I always considered these to be the dominion of old ladies, but, no matter that my children consider me an old lady, I’ve seen young men here pulling a cart behind them. This invention allows you to purchase more than you could comfortably juggle in bags slung over your shoulder, on the bus or hiking up and down the hilly streets.

In the U.S., I found myself purchasing most of the week’s comestibles from the Saturday farmers market, then making many side trips to various stores to fill in the gaps. I went to the health food store for raw milk and a particular brand of coconut oil with no guar gum. Whole Foods sold the laundry soap and peanut butter I liked, and Smith’s had cat food and toilet paper. Again, with a car that’s all easy. My only concern was with combining trips to reduce the burning of fossil fuels and the spewing into the air of more exhaust fumes.

Here in Sydney, I also find that foodstuffs I’m in search of are spread out across the map. I can get milk just up the street a couple blocks, at the quaint and diminutive Italian market run by sweet old Joe.  He has a nice selection of olive oils, delicious dried beans, and an assortment of imported pastas and semolina flour.

Another kilometer up the road is the butcher who specializes in organic, free range meats, and the fish market with fresh daily catch. A thirty minute bus ride will take me to the big shopping center and a market where I can find reasonably priced organic produce and most anything I might need to cook dinner. There are some things like raw milk, and almond meal that costs less than $8 a quarter cup, I have yet to locate.

While most everything I need is here in the city, getting it to my kitchen requires some puzzle piecing. To completely stock an empty kitchen can’t be done with a single wheelie bag or one trip to the market.

As I plan menus and shopping excursions I try to think through all the variables. This is not always one of my strong suits. I’ve mostly had to limit my purchases to no more than a couple of days worth at a time, as a good portion of the wheelie bag gets filled with staples and those kitchen tools I am having to replace. The thinking it through part means planning shopping lists that include the staples I need to replace, things like olive oil, red wine vinegar, flour – mostly things in heavy bags and glass bottles – and meals that require only those few staples I can get in one trip. Invariably, I get part way through dinner preparations and realize I don’t have a necessary ingredient, like salt, or a bowl to mix it in. Or a spoon to stir it with.

Another element of planning centers on the excursion itself: where am I going and how will I get there? While I am trying my best to get my walking legs in shape, I admit that too often I jump on the bus across the street and ride to the top of the hill. From there I work my way down. If I’m really organized and still have room in the wheelie cart, I can take the bus to the shopping center, and on the way back get off at the top of the hill and continue shopping on the walk down. OK, I haven’t really done that yet. I’ve just thought about it.

As I write this, I’m considering this afternoon’s shopping trip and trying to convince my tired feet that a walk up the hill would be good for them. I haven’t thought any of it through, farther than I need milk to make kefir, and I already have eggs and bits of this and that, that will become dinner. I haven’t made a shopping list or taken any of my own advice. I don’t think I’ll even take the wheelie cart. Just for today, I’ll live on the edge.

So Much Depends Upon a Three Piece Bistro Set

bistro set (1 of 2)I have these ideas of what elements are necessary to create a good life. Coffee on the patio, in the morning, with pen and paper in hand, is an absolute.

I only began this practice five years ago when we bought our house in Salt Lake City. Prior to that, coffee on the patio was only a fantasy that I pasted pictures of in my manifestation journal. As I think of it now, even after we bought the patio set, this practice remained more of an ideal than an actual reality. In the first warm days of spring I would sit out there, through June and the profusion of iris and poppies. Then July would find me hiding indoors again, away from the heat, until the end of August when I would go out again to dream about the approaching autumn. Then winter would return and I’d go back indoors to sit in a window, an acceptable alternative when it’s snowing.

This last year, I sat on the patio every opportunity I could find, knowing that at any moment I might be giving up that garden seat. Rose the six-toed cat would sit there with me each morning. (Gardens need a black and white cat to make them complete.) She died one day in September, and the next day we sold the patio set. I remember that morning, feeling I couldn’t bear to sit out there without her. Then as I watched the furniture being hauled away I regretted not spending one last morning there.

Winter came again and sitting on the patio was no longer an option, with or without a cat and a chair. The cold days of the northern hemisphere soon gave way to summer in the southern half of the world and I found myself on a balcony overlooking the streets of a Sydney suburb.

For thirty days I drank my coffee watching cockatoos, rainbow lorikeets, and a very vocal and territorial Australian Raven. As we spent the last month searching for a more permanent antipodean home, a proper patio was a required feature. We found this place, with not one, but two patios. I could choose which one I wanted to occupy on any given morning!

Except that I didn’t have a table or even a chair for the patio. Oh sure, I could have hauled a dining room chair out every day, but instead I sat in the dark corner, where I sit now because it’s raining, and pined for a seat in the open air. My mornings were just not quite satisfying.

Then last night, our two overly generous Kiwi friends came over for housewarming drinks, to break in the space with friendship and laughter. With them they brought a three piece bistro set: our housewarming gift. Once again, my life is complete.

That may come off as hyperbole and it’s not. The enormity of this gift goes far beyond the physicality of a small round table and two accompanying chairs. That bistro set is a front row seat to the day. It is a place to greet the morning, under the open sky where my thoughts and imagination can expand ever upward. It is a meditation retreat, a sacred shrine surrounded by flowers and vines. From that seat I can place my feet flat on the ground, feel my sit bones, and my connection to Earth.

That seat is where I plan to spend the next three years writing. It will be the birthing grounds of blog posts, short stories, essays, and articles I hope to publish. So yes, it is much more than a place to sit. This gift returned to me one of the things I miss most from my life in Salt Lake, one of the most important elements of my day and of my home. That bistro set and the friends that gave it to us transformed this place, a place I was feeling questionable about, into a home. Even if it’s raining and I can’t go outside to drink my coffee and write, I can think about doing it, and know that as soon as it stops raining I can go out there. And when I’m there, I will always be reminded of the loving and generous nature of the friends that made it possible.

~ for Merrolee and Lindsay