My friends Narran and Kelly are doing a good thing – over to them…
In a fit of wild and generous behaviour Kelly and I have signed up for a charity walk taking place this June in aid of Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital Fund.
We will be completing, hopefully, a 41km trek along the route of Hadrian’s Wall in Northumbria. Apparently this is tougher than the Sahara trek they organise. Hmmm?
We would both like to raise as much money as possible for the cause. So please be as generous as you can.
If you’d like to contribute a little bit of dosh, click here to get to their page – Just Giving is a great site, I’ve used it before. It doesn’t matter if you’re not in the UK. Thank you!
Before breakfast I did a lap around the house to check on the progress of the spring flowers. Daffodils topped with growing yellow-tinted bulges. A purple primula. A rainbow of crocuses – sunshine yellow, royal purple, white with delicate purple veins.
I visited the veg patch, which is across a rough piece of land at the end of the garden. It’s surrounded by high posts and usually completely covered in net, but the February snow weighed too heavily on the canopy and split it into pieces. This happened last year too – I might rig up a cross-hatching of string before I put a new net up again.
The purple sprouting broccoli (which was already a failure after I let a butterfly stay inside the net for long enough to let her babies loose on it) had been completely nibbled by deer. Definitely need to get that net back up.
When we moved here there was a big rhubarb plant growing near the door. I uprooted it roughly (I’m not the gentlest of gardeners) and split it into two, re-homing it in the corner of the veg patch. It looked pretty dead by the time I’d finished. I thought I’d try my hand at forcing it just in case, and this morning I checked under the two black buckets. It’s alive! Wonderfully, pinkly alive, and just pushing its way out of the dark.
On the way back (for cinnamon bagel breakfast), I spotted rows of green shoots. My garlic is growing! The soil had shrugged half of the cloves out of the earth, and I covered them back up with handfuls of dark soil, pushing it down as if tucking them in. Grow, rhubarb. I’ll make you into crumble. Grow, garlic. I’ll make dauphinoise potatoes, garlicky bread, I’ll eat whole baked cloves with my Sunday dinner.
Yesterday I had a craving for cinnamon bagels.
I went to the shop on the way home from work, hoping to buy some for breakfast. I thought about the smell of toasting bagels. I thought about the melted butter dripping onto my fingers.
I got to the bread section. I scanned the shelves. French stick. Croissants. Malted brown rolls. Where are my bagels? MY bagels – I WANT bagels. I should HAVE them.
After a strong ‘gah’ feeling, I recovered my balance. I don’t need bagels, I told myself. I’ll have bagels another day. It’s OK. I went on with my business, heading off to look for sugar.
Just round the corner, on the end of the aisle, there they were. There was one bag of cinnamon bagels left.
What a gift.
If I hadn’t recovered myself, finding the bagels would have felt like turning a negative into a neutral. I had a sense of entitlement. I might have even felt annoyed that they hadn’t been put where I thought they should have been.
Because I’d accepted that I couldn’t have them, I became content with what I already had. Getting the bagels was pure gravy.
Imagine if we could accept EVERYTHING that comes to us as a gift. The sound of traffic outside my window. This orange scented candle burning on my desk. This sip of hot tea. This breath. This one.
PS I had one for breakfast. Cinnamon smell wafted through the kitchen. The melted butter dripped onto my fingers. Yum.
I spoke to my Nana last night, and she said she’d almost finished my book.
I must confess to you – there are rude bits in my book. As one of my shocked friends put it – ‘you used the ‘c’ word!’ I’d warned my mum and my aunt in advance, suggesting they skip over those bits if they felt uncomfortable, but I hadn’t warned my Nana.
I asked her last night if she’d got to the rude bits. She had. She wondered how I’d been able to write certain bits (which will become clear when you read the book). And she said she thought I’d written it ‘sensitively’. She was a vegetarian before anyone else had invented it, and is resolutely atheist. I should have known it would take more than that to shock her.
She did say that she wasn’t so keen on the swearing, but conceded that ‘those sort of people probably would swear’. So I think I got away with it. Phew.
If you’d like to make your own mind up about the rude bits you can order The Letters on Amazon UK now or from Snowbooks if you’re overseas. I hope I don’t make you blush.
My friend left me a message on Facebook yesterday saying he’d seen my book in a Books Etc. in Whitely in Queensway (which is somewhere in the big smoke).
My book, wot I wrote, in an actual shop. Who’d have thought it.
Back in the normal world, there is a wood pigeon rooting around in the lawn. I can see clutches of snowdrops sheltering in the lee of the hedge. Golden and purple crocuses are lining the drive. Radio 6 is playing The Rolling Stones.
If you spot this rare bird out and about, do let me know – take a little photo on your phone if you’re not embarrassed just to convince me that it’s really happening.
In the meantime I shall do the washing up, and drink some apple and raspberry juice, and take note of the solidity of the kitchen floor underneath my socked feet to stop me from floating away. Although I shall be grinning.
My debut novel will be in the shops one week tomorrow. This could mean one of three things.
a) It will completely bomb. The shops will return all the books they ordered, people will demand their money back, and it will generally be considered as one of the worst books of all time.
b) I will sell a modest number – no more and no less than I expect to sell. I will make a little bit of money and feel reasonably satisfied.
c) It will do much better than I expect it to. I will win many glitzy prizes, appear on Richard and Judy, and be given a knighthood.
Will you think me mad if I tell you that c) is the option I’m most afraid of? That old cocaine lure of success. And so when I found The Big Sit, a 90 day meditation challenge, at Tricycle, I thought ‘that’s just what I need.’
I’ve made a vow to sit for twenty minutes every morning for the next 90 days, starting tomorrow. I’ve also vowed to eat more mindfully, to walk more, and to study a little bit of Dogen (the chap with the bald head) every week. I’m hoping this will help steady me for whatever comes next.
Will you join me? What will you give yourself over the next 90 days? Daily journal writing? Daily walks? More fruit? More fun? More time with friends or family? Anything goes, as long as it’ll be good for you (in a wholesome way – daily doughnut eating is all very well but doesn’t count as looking after yourself).
Do let me know what you’ll be doing, and we can compare notes. Let the 90 days begin! (PS you can join in whenever you like).
This week I finished reading Sara Maitland’s A Book of Silence.
When I first sat down to read it, I kept finding myself annoyed by whatever music was playing in the background. I decided to read it in silence, or rather the particular ‘silence’ of this rural-cottage-by-a-busy-road.
In it Maitland sets off on a personal exploration of silence – both by immersing herself in various forms of silence, and by reading of other’s experiences of silence down the ages.
In the latter part of the book she proposes two types of silence – a zen-like ‘dissolving the boundaries of the ego’ silence, and the almost-opposite – a Romantic ‘shoring up the ego’ in order to find our authentic voice. The first enables us to start letting go of our personalities, and the second leads us towards firming them up.
I found Maitland’s journey fascinating, and it also led me to ask some questions of my own. How ‘noisy’ is my life, with music, email, phone calls, blogging? How does this serve me and how does it cushion me, and from what? For a few minutes I was seriously considering getting rid of the lot – my blogs, my Facebook account, all that distraction. I decided not to, for now. I enjoy it, and on balance it feels ‘good for me’ despite the disadvantages.
But Maitland’s yearning for silence does resonate with me. It conjures the silences with my counselling clients, which can be so varied – from intense discomfort to an intimate ‘communing’ with the other person which is beautiful beyond words. It makes me think of the ‘work’ of sitting zazen, by myself or in a room of others. Or simply watching the goldfinches. Letting everything settle, slowly. Without the need for any of that noisy talk.
I’ve decided to start up weekly emails again. Now I’ve got more than 500 subscribers I’m paying quite a lot of money for my subscription service, Constant Contact, so I might as well use it!
If you’d like to receive a selected post from the posts here, scroll down on the right to ‘Sign Up’, put in your email and tick ‘Planting Words’ – it’ll be delivered to your inbox every Monday.
You can also try ‘a small stone’ or ‘a handful of stones’ which will go out on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively – you can always unsubscribe if you don’t like them. And do sign up for my Quarterly Newsletter, which will do what it says on the tin.
I was lucky enough to win a copy of DJ Kirkby’s From Zaftig to Aspie through a competition on Me and My Big Mouth.
In it Kirkby writes about her unusual childhood and her growing awareness that she was somehow different from other people.
“… What would you do if you discovered something inside of you that did not have a name? Read ‘From Zaftig to Aspie’ and discover one woman’s search to find out who she is.”
It’s an intriguing book written from a unique perspective, with lush descriptions and funny anecdotes. Above all, Kirkby writes with a searing honesty from first to last.
If you’d like my copy and you live in the UK, send me an email and I’ll pass it on – in the meantime you can visit DJ’s blog here or watch her book trailer here.
This weekend I was looking forward to a particular walk along a particular river. I drove a considerable distance, through heavy traffic, and battled to find a parking space.
When I finally made it to the riverside, I found rather more water than I had expected. It wasn’t just in the river, where it should be. It was covering the path – the very path I’d been looking forward to walking along.
I sulked for a bit. Not fair. After all this effort. Nothing going right for me at the moment. You know the kind of thing.
But then I made my way to a bench which had its feet under water, and put my legs up on the seat. I listened to the river gently lapping. I watched dog-walkers wading by in their wellies. I read about silence.
It’s only after we’ve let go of what we think we wanted, that we can enjoy what we got instead.