Saturday 25 August 2018

On picking up other people's beer cans

Part one

new old garden chair in the early morning 
I had my tea in the garden recently next to a sunbathing blackbird.  I had intended to write some notes about the day ahead, but couldn't find any pens or paper and so had to sit with nothing to do but drink my tea.  The sun had come only half way across the garden, the air was clear and the seagulls making a great deal of noise from the rooftops.  At first, I thought the blackbird was in trouble.  It sat, fat and black, with its little yellow beak open, on the flower bed in between the lavender and the peonies.  With the lack of rain, the soil was dry and dusty, and it seemed to have found a little dip in which to settle itself, wriggling its bottom in the dust to get comfortable.  And there it sat.  After about ten minutes, I wondered if it was ill, and possibly dying, and as a soul midwife, I briefly thought about the right protocol for a blackbird.  Its beady little eye didn't look dull though, it had a self possessed air about it, and I thought - that bird is sunbathing.  There is a robin that lives nearby too, hopping about madly to show the blackbird up for being ridiculous, as if sunbathing on a dusty flower bed was simply attention seeking.  At some point, the blackbird must have flown away, when I looked a good half hour later, it had gone. 

Later, in the afternoon, I returned to the garden for more tea.  I sat on one of three old wooden garden chairs that my lodger had found in a skip and brought back for me to sort out.  This, I thought, is the life.  Here I am, relaxing under a tree, my feet up on another garden chair, with a tray of tea, some chocolate and a little pot of crunchy peanut butter to be eaten with a spoon.  And yes, it is true, it is the life, and also, it is like this often, but not all the time.

Part two

The good thing about getting older is that time becomes less of a surprise and more of an old friend.  I am aware of it now, in a way that I wouldn't have been when I was younger.  It sometimes alarms me, the way that it just disappears.  I am not surprised any more though by its passing, despite sometimes not feeling ready for it to move quite so relentlessly. I know it is doing its own thing and whatever I am waiting for, anticipating, looking forward to or dreading, the moment will come when it simply happens, and then I will look back on something that I was waiting for, that is now like all the other things in my life, in the past.  I have more time to spend on time now, and more curiosity about the relationship I am having with it.  It no longer needs to be juggled, it no longer needs to be caught and held on to, it no longer dominates my day by not being enough.  The busyness that filled my days not so long ago when I had children at home, lodgers to deal with and work to do - that busyness has gone and now with the children grown and moved away (except for Giant Boy who will only move out one day when his new wife drags him out by his earlobes).  The lodgers have all gone, and the house is mine again, and if I want to, I can spend the day deciding where to sit and drink tea next.  I can even sunbathe in the dust in the flower bed if I like.

Time, my new friend, has introduced me to another friend that has been waiting to be seen for a long time now, silence.  Time has suggested that if I am changing my experience of itself, that I might want to meet silence, which like time, has been here all along.  And so, I have been introduced to silence, and we are getting along very well, neither of us so afraid of the other as we have been in the past.

A divine you unbothered by the whirling in your head

Something that silence has shown me is that there is no need to distract myself, that sitting with it and hearing the noise in my head, the noise around me, feeling the moments pass by like the smallest of breezes, as they do, will not harm me.  It is possible that all the noises, all the thoughts, all the fears, are not my enemies and when I step out of the way, off they go into the ether without the need for me to follow them.  Inside us all is a strong and timeless soul.  It is this that we catch a glimpse of when we work with silence and lose our fear of it.  All the chatter, all the nonsense that crowds in on us, is not part of our gentle, powerful inner light despite us believing that it is.  We might think that the madness in our minds is all we are, but behind it, much deeper and more wonderful, is a you that is divine and powerful and utterly unbothered by all the whirling around in your head.

Part three

I say these things as if I have a charmed life sunbathing in the garden with the wildlife, drinking tea all day and getting to know the cosmos.  Without any judgement and without any regret, my life has been very hard.  It has also been filled with grace and wonder.  These things are still with me, the difficulties and the grace and the wonder, I am not drifting into old age with my hands folded gently in my lap, a saintly smile on my lips and angels dancing on my head.  I am drifting into older age, inexorably, things are changing, but I am the same person I have always been.  It is as this person, this same person I have always been, that I am finding that time is an old friend and that silence is not my enemy.  It is as this same person that I am catching a glimpse, every now and then, of the power inside, somewhere beyond my physical body yet part of my physical body, this spark of the divine, this strong and timeless soul that is part of us all and that is wonderful beyond imagining.

My grand dumplings and me, full of grace
and wonder 
Memory of my late husband - all the last texts he sent,
 the hardness of life

Part four

Some mornings ago I fell into a waking sleep and had a dream.  I was walking in a park when I saw an empty beer can on the ground.  I must pick that up and throw it away, I thought.  As I picked it up, from nowhere, hundreds of empty beer cans came flooding around me and I realised that I must not pick up other people's empty beer cans.  In feeling the need to pick up one empty beer can, I am vulnerable to everyone else's empty beer cans, and I will be swamped. I have taken the message of this very seriously.

So now, I can sit in the garden and have tea with the blackbirds and robins, and I can watch time go by with my new friend silence.  I can deepen my curious and challenging and comforting relationship with this thing called time, and I can give myself permission to do all this with the full knowledge that what is hard in my life has not changed, and what is wonderful has not changed either.  This is made much more possible because I have more time for time, more space for silence because I see that do not need to pick up anyone else's beer cans any more. 

Time is passing, feeling the moments one by one pass me by like so many small breezes, and feeling no fear