Sleep, stare at the sky, the moon, the sea.
Hold onto the earth that loves you.
All the birds sing for your comfort.
The wind touches you gently.
The great Mother is near.
– Maureen Horkan
“…Such places are wild sanctuaries because they dwell completely within themselves and can quietly draw us into their knowing and stillness. Almost without sensing it, the mind is gradually relieved of its inner pressing. The senses become soothed and the clay part of the heart is stirred by ancient beauty.” – excerpt from ‘Divine Beauty’ by John O’Donohue.
My beloved ‘home’ which I mentioned a few blog posts ago, my friends, I regret to inform you, has been lost to me. In a very sad turn of events, the friend whom I entrusted the safe-keeping and maintenance of my home to for the few months I will be out of the country, decided to pull a runner. Apart from the obvious result of losing a friend, I have had to move out of the house swiftly, before I rack up more expenses. I will leave out what happened between her mysterious betrayal of my trust, and to where I sit today, getting ready to go back to said country to move my things out of the house and try to settle with a very disgruntled landlord, out of respect for what was once a very decent and kind friendship between us.
Fast forward to tonight; I am getting ready to fly to this country, gain access to the house for a few hours, and fill my two suitcases with my most precious items. The rest, an accumulation of 12 years of my life in that country and 2 years in the first home I ever made for myself, I will have to leave behind, to be thrown out by the landlord after I go. I made a list, trying to put some sort of plan in place so that when I re-enter the house I have loved so much these last two years, I keep a level head, and manage to rescue the things I would most be upset by losing. In making this list, I somehow managed to turn this whole mess into a very interesting personal challenge.
If you were given only 1 minute to grab a few items from your house, before you were outed forever, or the house burned down (in a more dramatic scenario), what would you grab?
If you were given 10 minutes?
When I heard that I would have limited access to the house – two hours total, no more – , the first thing I thought about was leaving the whole house full of belongings behind. The expense of flying there, trains, accommodation, etc, seemed too much. But an image of my Mom’s glass angel figurine, patiently perched on my bedroom windowsill, waiting for me to return, kept flashing in my mind. Then, her collection of crystals. The framed sketch by my Grandmother that I brought home with me from my parents’ house a few years ago. My one pair of dress shoes that I love, the burlesque-y looking ones that I wore – daringly – at my citizenship ceremony last year. My ballet shoes.
I realised then that I have to go, quickly, and scoop up these things.
A scene from the film ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ popped into my head a few days ago. A woman discovers her husband has been having an affair. Heart-broken, she then learns that he and his new partner will buy her out of their shared home, so she must move out. On moving day, the movers come and ask her where to start. After looking around her, associating all of her belongings with the memory of HIM, she tells them to just pick up the few boxes of books in the front hall. That’s all.
Next, as she walks out of her home for the last time, a blue vase holding fresh flowers catches her eye. She picks it up, turns it around in her hands, examining it, dumps out the water and contents, puts it in her pocket, and leaves.
I can relate so much to this moment in Francis’ life! The things you own just become…hard work. The thought of moving them, transplanting them somewhere new, somewhere where you are starting from scratch, with all of these memories and …weight attached to them…makes you wonder why the heck you would do it to yourself! The urge to just walk out and start from scratch is tempting. I have been given this opportunity and, although I spent the last few weeks worried sick about what the future holds for me and my THINGS, I have decided to embrace the situation and live out this fantasy of walking out of a former life and starting over.
I know that one of my glitches as a human being is harbouring grudges. I can’t help but hope this experience will really help me LET GO of emotional baggage, as well as excess physical baggage. The two cannot really be so different?
So, Readers, I am sharing this experience with you. I am asking myself why I have put myself through so much stress and worry when it comes to keeping my possessions with me all these years. Especially as someone who moves house on a pretty regular basis! I am hoping that this experience proves to be cathartic, not just draining, and once I am through the thick of it, I feel more liberation than loss.
This is the reason I haven’t been writing at my normal rate these last few weeks. I had nothing very positive to share until the image of Francis and her blue vase came to me. (**If you haven’t seen the film yet, check it out! It’s one of my all-time favourite ‘starting over’ films!**)
I will keep you posted on my internal and external progress.
There must be a name for this. I have never ceased to notice when times are hard and the darkness exceeds the light, there is always some act of kindness, of natural beauty, that pulls me back up again. Whether it’s a bird landing right in front of you, chirping cheerily at you, or an email from a friend, apparently ‘randomly’ telling you ‘hi! i value you!’, or an incident of synchronicity or magic, it’s always there.
Any idea of what we could call this?
In my last blog post I was in a head-spin. The physical act of writing the post helped me set things somewhat in order in my mind. However, the magic came later when I checked my email. Two friends, both of whom I met for the first time while in Colombia a few years ago, writing to say hi. One, the very very words on her email ‘you are a valued friend’. And the other, a pretty standard catch-up email, offering me her couch anytime I need an escape, but the real spark was that I received the email at 11:11.
For those of you who have yet to encounter 11:11, I kid you not: had I heard about this up until two years ago, I would have thought it a BIT too New Age-y to believe, even for me. However, about 6 months after the death of a loved one, when my life what somewhat returning to normal, I began seeing 11:11 every day. On clocks, receipts, emails, signs, mobile numbers, you name it. It found me! Another time it found me via a friend’s watch also! I asked him what day it was and he flipped his wrist over to me so I could check his watch – Guess what: 11:11 is what.
So, I find great comfort in these little gifts. I know some people may not understand this, may think I am seeking them and therefore creating these ‘messages’ in my own head. But I have to say, I think it is the opposite. Once you believe in them and are open to them, you realise they are there, and always have been. You were just distracted, or stuck in your own head, and failed to notice them.
I am open to the reassurance and guidance that the Universe is offering me. And, above all, I am grateful.
I went out for a walk two days ago, when the crowd of worries and thoughts had begun swirling around in my head. “What is to become of meeeeee?!’ An overwhelming time for me; trying to establish what I want, where I want to be, what I am going to do for a living. I have been having trouble even working on one of these things at a time – they all just keep bobbing up in my head, completely out of turn!
I found myself in a wintry forest, alone, until a lone cross-country skier crossed my path. Apart from the gentle SWOOSH of his skis, all was silent, yet alive and breathing and boundless. Above, a glimmery-blue sky and snow-capped mountains.
On that day, seeing the tiny speck of a human (and inside their tiny head, perhaps, as many questions and emotions and worry as I have within my own tiny head!) against the vast, ancient mountain landscape, I realised that my problems really aren’t so big. And to be pondering these things in such a breath-taking place, safe, healthy, relatively “OK”, I also realised that I must have done something very, VERY right in my life to have ended up in that place, on that day.
A dilemma which I have recently found myself in; how to know when my time in a place is done. I have a knack for over-staying. I blame it on my being a Libra. Loyal to a fault, to both humans and places. I have over-stayed on couches, in relationships, in countries that I loved so much that I ignored the little words on the visa stamped into my passport pages…but now I come to a point where, after 12 years in a country that I was not born in, opportunities and, more importantly, inspiration, has dried up. I do believe in signs from a higher being, and at the moment, that being is fervently telling me to pack my bags and get out of there!
All of the things which previously I found made me feel a sense of security, of home, such as friends, a sweet house to live in alone in one of the most beautiful locations I have ever been privileged to see, are gone. The last threads of this tie that have held me to this country for so long are falling away, some very quickly and abruptly, and I find myself wondering why I should stick it out when there is nothing left for me there. I am currently working in another country, due to go home in three months, and I suddenly find myself seeking my next destination. To be honest, I feel like I am seeking an extra-marital relationship! My heart has really belonged to this place for so long, I spent all of my 20s there, good times/emotional times/gut-wrenchingly difficult times, and it is a hard relationship to see come to an end. I know it may not be forever, but it is a serious step away from the home I have made for myself away from my homeland.
Saying this, one of the places I planned to return to in September is Canada. Berlin is also on the list, as is Scandinavia. Oh, and Hawaii.
While I dream of and plan for setting up in these places in future, I must also mention that I am without a trade. I call myself a bit of a ‘Dupree’. And I am fed up with trying to make a living with menial jobs, when these jobs hack away chunks of time that I would like to dedicate to pursuing my passions. I’ve never been able to find that magical balance between the two, if it exists. I have done a few half-hearted attempts at the studying thing, and I have finally, after an exhaustingly long struggle with myself, decided to allow myself to be who I am. And I am NOT a student. I wish I was! Oh, how I wish! The world is much more gentle to people who follow that University – Work path. I envy them. I have taken every single turn-off that main road in my life so far, and to go back to it, even for a year or two, would be crippling for me.
How to combine this constant need for mobility with a sustainable, profitable mode of work? I have done the waitressing/crappy backpacker jobs thing long enough. I find the thought of continuing it at this point to be repulsive. Literally, I am REPULSED. I know my strengths, and my skills, and my passions, and it’s just a matter of being in the right place and making the connections to get started.
I love writing, for one.It’s healing and it never feels like ‘work’ for me. The words just flow out.
See, at the beginning of this post my head was in a spin. I couldn’t focus, I was panicking internally at the uncertain manoeuvres ahead of me and how to carry them out….and by just setting all of this outside of my poor little head, I have regained a teensy smidgen of a foothold of myself.
I thank you, Internet world, for giving us this blank canvas on which we can create, and work out our mind-itches, and see other people’s questions about life. I look forward to finding some answers, SOON! X
I made my New Year’s Eve ritual simple this year. Not that I am a Mistress of Elaborate Rituals in any way, but this was a fairly straight-forward one. I made a rambling list of what I want to do and see and accomplish this year. I also wrote a letter to someone close to me who passed away in recent years. I put them in a plain white envelope, and let it sit for about an hour, while I pfaffed about the house, mind focusing entirely on calling the contents of the envelope to Life. A more efficient Witch would have probably sat and meditated on the list, but I should say now that I find my mind is in full-on Zen mode while I tidy. Strange, I know, but maybe there’s a reason Witches always have brooms next to them? Just sayin’…
When I felt that the manifestation was underway, I sat out my bedroom window and watched the letter burn. I left it smouldering this time on the ledge until it was ash. And, different to previous rituals like this, I actually did NOT scatter the ashes. I left them overnight outside my bedroom window and let the Alpine mountain wind take them as they wished. It has taken two days of non-interference but by now every little speck of ash is done.
After it had been left down to smoulder, I had a nice little moment staring up at the stars and just…being. In the midst of moving here, re-kindling a long distance relationship and turning it into *very* short distance (i.e. living together), and all of my normal daily mind-grumbles, I forget to Look Up! This was on my list; be more present and WORRY LESS!
I’ve decided, that, above all, this will be a year for setting up the next ten, so to speak. I want to put myself in a position where I can lead a secure, semi-nomadic life. I am now the owner of two different coloured passports which bargain me entry into two very privileged geographical regions. These two regions offer me enough resources for education and enjoyment to last for the rest of my life. My list of where to go next never stops writing itself. The only barriers? Money, and motivation. So, these two shall be my main focus for 2017.
Other projects include putting more energy into this writing blog, making more intricate personal rituals (just for the craic! 😉 ), and another creative project that I am over-joyed to be working on with one of the most important people in my life, my Grandmother. Travel is particularly important this year; I foresee a lot of packing and moving and re-assessing how much ‘stuff’ I plan on hanging on to . This is a tough one, as I am a traveller by nature but rather than be on the move constantly, I have a need to ‘nest’ in each place I live and stay awhile. This means I like familiar things around me and the comfort and temporary security of a specified ‘home. Alongside this, the re-adjustment to being a student, and at that, one on the move quite often, studying at my own pace, is taking a lot of focus and effort also.
This will be an exciting year!!!
Wishing the world a healthful, positive start to 2017 and a remembrance and re-learning of human compassion and love, above all, which is the right of every being. Peace & Love in 2017 xxx
The chronic discomfort that comes along with the privilege of having seen and lived in so many different places. Today my homesickness is for the city in the West of Ireland where I spent the whole of my 20s. A good friend of mine had a health scare within their family, and I’d love nothing more at this moment to be sitting at their kitchen table, chatting over pots of tea and her delicious home-cooked food. Actually, it was in this kitchen, about two years ago, that I found myself acknowledging that my years of bouncing between cities, crashing on friends’ couches, being non-committal to any and all living and work situations, had come to an end. Maybe it was because this was a Mom’s house, with photos around the house, plants, paintings and artwork from the now-grown-up children…it seemed so … wonderful! to me. I spoke the words out loud ‘I really want to have a Home now’. I said them to no one in particular, but my friend’s Mom, who was preparing food at the kitchen counter, over-heard me and quietly tittered but said nothing in response, leaving the spoken words hovering in the air for a moment, just simmering. A few months later, I settled into a little house on a hill, over-looking the most beautiful mountain-valley scene you will ever behold. A year and half later, I am on hiatus working elsewhere for five months, and I am painfully homesick for my little house. In it, I know where everything is, my shoes are lined up at the backdoor. Nothing is packed up in storage, my whole material and practical life is in that house. The kitchen is fully stocked with things that only a Settled person would have in their kitchen, and that, to travellers, is an often-missed luxury as it takes up too much space in a backpack (i.e. muffin tins! Yeast! A spice rack!). Luckily a friend has been staying with me for a few months and will hold down the fort until I get Home, but I have found, already, after only one month away, that that house means so much more to me than I realised.
We used to have a family cottage that was sold two year ago, right after my Mom passed away. It had been in the family for two generations so far, and when she passed my grandmother realised that no one in my generation was in a position to take it on after her. So, the heartbreaking decision to sell. I never went back for a final visit. The day it sold, thousands of miles away across the Atlantic ocean, I felt it in my heart. More than my parents’ house where I grew up, when I close my eyes I can see every single detail of that cottage on the sea. The wallpaper, the smell, the antique family furniture, my Grandma, always working away in the kitchen, baking bread or doing her crosswords at the big round kitchen table. It belongs to some other family now, and it doesn’t seem right. But I doubt I will ever go and see it again. All of our childhood summers, some winters, were spent there. We lived on the beach, up at dawn, out the door, only coming in when we were called for lunch. Grandma met us at the door with a bucket of water to wash the beachy sand off us – however she never quite got it all and the little footprints of sand all over the house were testament to our adventures. Jake, the village dog, was outside waiting for us every morning. My little friend, Jennifer, who lived next door, would put the kitchen blind up so I knew when her parents were awake and I could go over and get her to play. An idyllic childhood.
Our other cottage, from the other side of the family, on a beautiful lake in Quebec. Also, sold long ago when my Grandpa passed away. Originally it was a pretty rustic little shack on the side of the mountain, looking down towards the water. Early in the mornings my Grandmaman would show me this figure down below, which looked like a floating chandelier in the water. I couldn’t believe it. A moose! Out for his morning swim! I loved when she walked down to the waterside with me and my brother; we’d do a little ‘parade’ and make lots of music with pots and pans. It only occurred to me a few years ago we were actually telling the bears in the area we were coming. How like my Grandmaman not to spoil a perfectly innocent childhood activity with fear…of bears! Ha! The same as the other cottage, we would go to bed with sand between our toes every day.
On the other hand, the holiday season having just passed, I spent Christmas Eve and Day lamenting that I was not with my family in Canada, where I grew up. Our family has significantly shrunk over the last few years, and the thought of my little band of kinfolk sitting around the table as always, minus a few loved ones who have passed on, brought me to tears several times. ‘The Sea is Wide / And I cannot swim over / nor have I / the wings for to fly’ kept playing in my head. There was nothing I could do but hunker down in my current location and be grateful to be alive and well, and in a pretty sweet spot for the winter! But the feeling of being so intensely torn in multi directions…it is one I suppose I will always have and will have to make peace with. There is no one place I love more than the others. It is a complete and equal split.
I have to consider myself lucky that I have so many heart connections with people around the world. The reality is, I cannot be with every one of them all at once. Two years ago, when I had just found what would become my first adult home, I heard a refrain in my mind. ‘Plant your feet, plant your feet’. I realised that when you plant your feet in a place, things grow. I have a garden, but I’m not just talking about that! Opportunities arise, and with this new type of security, you have the time to get to know a different side of yourself. More aspirations can arise, now that you have a base from which to access resources and make connections. I’ll never regret my decision to plant my feet. I owe it to these friends of mine whose home triggered something in me that day, when I spoke the words aloud and the Mom tittered, it set off a chain of reactions that led me to finding exactly what I needed.
Until I can be with them at their kitchen table in Real Life, writing this will have to temporarily suffice. During the process of writing, I in fact WAS transported to their kitchen table. I could almost smell something delicious in the oven, and hear the radio.
The magic of the mind and pen when paired!
I was flipping through an online photo account, looking at all of my parents’ childhood photos which family members have, over time, have converted to digital photos for safe-keeping, and it got me thinking…our Grandparents and Great-Grandparents often had only a small bundle of photos and keepsakes to pass on to their children to remember them by. This was before Facebook, the selfie-craze in particular, when one photo could take minutes to take. This one photo, regardless of how it turned out (And how many of them were forever immortalised with scrunched-up faces or dead-serious, disquieting expressions?) was precious. Often it cost the family a lot of money and they only got one shot. If the photo survived the years, moving house, family feuds, housefires, etc., it may have ended up in the hands of some sentimental grand-child, or else it would have long since perished or gotten lost.
With the loss of my Mother three years ago, I started keeping things of hers that I wanted to hang onto to keep her memory alive. Whether for me or, perhaps sub-consciously, for future children – although I am currently very happy as a child-less 30-something! I started to do the same for other members of my family. I did this not in a consciously morbid way, but more in a burst of forward-thinking. It dawned on me that these things are no longer precious. For example, I have thousands of photos, taken throughout my 20s, slightly before, and over the last year or two, of my dwellings, travels, friends, partners…they are stored securely in said online photo account. So long as someone has the password and the desire, after I am gone they can just pop in and nose on through my life’s special moments. I haven’t printed a physical, paper version of a photo in almost a decade. So, this has inspired me to start working on a few classic, real life, photo albums. The idea excites me; this is a sure sign that I should have been doing this all along!
Now, another interesting debate that this sparked between a friend and myself: I realised, while panning through all these photos of the last 12 years of my life, that, quite a few of these photos are of people who have since drifted away or else, in darker moments, done something that has caused me to break away from them. Ex-friends. And ex-partners. So, as I was scrolling through this multitude of photos, selecting which ones I wanted to print hard copies of for the albums, the question that came to mind so, as I paused momentarily over the Select tool, what to do with these captured moments of former friends who, perhaps, left my life on a sad/angry note. There are very few people I still hold onto a bit of anger towards – hey, I’m human! – but does that mean I omit them from the photo diary of that period of my life? However it turned out in the end, that day the photo was taken, in that moment, they meant something to me. We had no idea what lay ahead for our friendship. I suppose it is a lesson in itself to embrace life and take chances with people. Even after a few bumps, when you are feeling battle-scarred, you can look back and see that it wasn’t always bad. Human relationships run their course; the great skill I would like to learn is how to leave them gracefully, with as few bumps as possible. Perhaps the bumps come when you resist the natural life-death cycle of the relationship. And that leaves you with a pile of photos in your hand, wondering what to do next.
How many of Grandma and Grandpa’s old shoebox-collection photos are of people, unbeknownst to us, whose ties of friendship were un-amicably severed in some mysterious drama? More importantly, does it take away from the importance of the photo and the place it holds in that worn-out old shoebox, which could be construed as something more symbolic than a shoebox?
In an age where it costs us nothing to lug around old memories, i.e. store them online, out-of-sight until needed, where has the sentimental value of photos gone, if it still exists at all?
Of all of the people I met in Nepal, the one who stuck with me the most was 1-year old Diamond. He was possibly the happiest little human I have ever met. He came in to the room held by his Grandpa, stared at me for a minute – at which point I was unsure of whether he was about to cry or smile – and broke into the loudest belly laugh I’ve ever heard. He sat on my lap for the next ten minutes, facing his Grandpa and Daddy, then turn his head to see if I was still there, and the laughing would start again. I believe I may have been the strangest looking person he’d ever seen! We shared no common language, a significant age and cultural difference, and yet it was like we were old friends. The men in the room were trying to teach him how to put his hands together and bow to say ‘Namaste’ to me…..while watching his little hands momentarily mimic his menfolk before flailing about again a la 1 year old, I got a firmer idea of what ‘Namaste’ actually means beyond the literal translation – ‘the Divine in me sees the Divine in you’. It’s a beautiful way of acknowledging and reminding each other of the basic core of every being. As I’m not a religious person, I’d previously have squirmed uncomfortably around the use of the word ‘Divine’ but in the broader sense I now understand the connection. I believe this is why there is so little aggression in Nepal. Every person I have met refers to me as ‘Sister’, another reminder that they recognise me as a fellow soul – more than just a body – and respect my right to a happy and safe existence here.
Little Diamond, however tiny, already knows this. He looked straight into my eyes with absolutely no fear or hesitation and shared his big belly laugh with me. Not only him, but kids everywhere seem to know this innately from the time they are born. My wish is that this message that we are all here equally, together, and that we cannot be separated through religion, social status, wealth, gender, race, was taught on an international basis from a young age. Children don’t need to be taught it, I believe they already know this. Their innate curiosity about one another is apparent, with little evidence of pre-conceived discrimination or judgment. What happens next is adults get to them with their own damaged world view. And voila!
Thank you little Diamond for your inspiration! Although your hands are small, I believe your heart is mighty! Namaste to you also. xxxx
I don’t know if it is a Canadian thing….but I am completely unable to haggle. Unwilling, also. I’d love to boast that it is entirely an ethical decision, but mainly it just makes me incredibly uncomfortable and ashamed. I mention this to other travellers sometimes and the general consensus is that it is residual of my growing up in a prosperous country. The guilt that I feel when I attempt to get a local vendor to lower their price is crippling. If people I am with haggle, I am mortified. In countries where the people earn the equivalent of my daily wage in Ireland in a month…..what right do I have to exploit them for their services and goods? I get told off by a significant amount of travellers for this sentiment – so far most of these complaints have been funny and good-natured – as my stubborn attitude apparently makes it harder for them to get a good price, but it just doesn’t make sense to me. In cheap countries we travellers already have the benefit of euros or dollars to make our funds go a long way. You know everything will have a price, why cause unnecessary tension for people who are already struggling to buy a tank of petrol for their car, feed their family, pay for their children’s education?….why pick these countries as the target haggling-zones? Why not, if at all, choose the richer countries to make a bargain? They can afford it.
Coming to a country where the maximum salary one can wish for with basic education is 90 US dollars PER MONTH, I do not think anyone should be asking them to lower their prices. The government itself cannot afford to provide electricity for the country for longer than 13 hours per day. And in Europe we waste insane amounts on useless things. There is no heating in buildings, people living in boxes, little children sleeping four or five underneath one cotton bedsheet in the middle of winter, little girls selling their bodies for a meal….I wonder how it is possible to look at this with eyes wide open and attempt to take any more from these people.
Canada is by far NOT a perfect country, however as a child growing up there I was safe, warm, comfortable, educated, and clothed and given the means to travel and make something of myself. When I tell people here I am from Canada, I’ve seen the most emotional responses. Their faces light up at the mention of this particular country. I’ve seen it on odd occasions previously, but never the same as in Nepal. Again, that guilt kicks in. Why did I happen to be born there and they here? I know guilt and sadness solves nothing, but it’s tangible. Most of these people will never have the opportunities I had/have, and yet they don’t show any sign of resentment towards me. They call me ‘Sister’ and bow their heads and smile with their eyes.
Perhaps their ‘Namaste’ is what saves them from the worst sides of poverty; self-pity, anger, a pre-disposition to steal and lie for personal gain….in this sense, Nepal is the richest country I’ve ever been in. And the most deserving of an improved economy. Therefore, little by little, I hope fellow travellers reconsider how hard they fight for that 50 cent discount on a souvenir. It doesn’t make a huge difference in your life, and it potentially makes life a little bit easier for the locals. Be a conscious traveler, not a tourist.