I had left pruning back the passion flower in case there were any late bees, but yesterday I got stuck in to it. As I cut back the wisteria, jasmine and passionflower, I began to see the amount of dead wood on the honeysuckle behind it. No wonder the poor lilac tree had not blossomed so well, with such competition for light and nutrients. The cats were delighted as they get energised when I work in the garden, and Harry Three Paws was bombing around the place like a lunatic. I filled the brown bin with greenery, then put the ladder beside it and jumped into it to stuff it down more. This was better than Miramax to the cats, who were thrilled to see Cat Mammy losing the plot and jumping up and down in a bin. When I finished working I looked at the end result with Logical Eyes first. The place looked like a tornado had hit. There were piles of cut raspberry canes (fantastic harvest during the summer) and piles of greenery that wouldn’t fit in the bin. It looked awful. Then I looked at it with Creative Eyes. I could see where I had planted giant borage (ecchium) (thanks for the seeds, writing buddy Dolly!) as a Bee Hotel for next summer. I had uprooted the fatsia japonica and relocated it to a young friend’s garden as she does floristry, and in the space where it used to be I had planted many daffodil bulbs. I hope they will bring cheerful yellow to tide me through the darkness of winter, which I will be able to see from the back door. I want to change what is usually in one flowerbed, but I don’t know to what just yet. It’s full of potential. I decided that Logical Eyes are overrated. The garden is like myself, a work in progress. I can live with the mess and choose to see only the potential.
Cats know how to be still. We have a lot to learn from them. Outer stillness can give rise to inner stillness, with practice. The outer stillness is a necessary first step. Then comes the lion-taming bit (learning from bigger cats) where we try to practice becoming a witness to our thoughts. It’s where we try to imagine that we are the blue sky and our thoughts are the clouds. Another analogy is trying to keep a puppy or a toddler on a blanket. They keep wandering off, and our job is to stay calm and gently bring them back. That’s all. This is a process that we practice, not a goal to meet. The benefit of such practice is being able to respond instead of reacting, being able to be patient when previously you wanted to knock someone’s block off. The cause of suffering is our reaction to what happens, not what actually happens. I was walking a golden Labrador on the seafront this morning. He was full of the joys of life. Dogs are so enthusiastic! I had one of those bendy sticks. The plan was that if I was going one direction, I would throw the ball back behind me to increase his exercise. Well, that was Plan A. What actually happened is that the first few times, he didn’t see where the ball went so I had to show him. Then I had some abortive attempts at throwing the ball at all because I had jammed it too hard into the end of the throwing stick. Hmm. What’s the lesson here, I wondered? Might it be about holding on too hard and then not being able to let go? Quite possibly. Also about being out of practice with said stick. So Plan B involved me burning more calories than I expected to (good news) and eventually using a two-handed approach that would have put Tiger Woods (more cat references!) to shame. So it didn’t quite go to plan, but the important thing was that the dog was happy. Me too, considering that (a) it was cold but dry unlike Wednesday morning and (b) my serotonin levels were up with all the extra throwing and walking. A good time had by all.
As I try to write this, one of the best things in life is currently sitting his black furry bottom directly in front of my screen. Make me the No. 1 Bestest Thing Ever, says Sid. Okay, no problem. I definitely believe that cats are God’s best invention. I was trying to do my end of year tax return this week, and Felicity insisted on sitting on my knee, which meant that I had to type with one hand while the other hand stopped her from slipping off. I have to say Knee Cats should be part of every stressed office. It would bring down the nation’s blood pressure by ten points per session. Health Minister (whoever you are – I don’t watch the news) take note! There was a psychiatrist called David Hawkins who used kinesiology to measure the vibrational level of various feelings and states. Love was measured at 500 out of 1000, and a cat’s purr was at 540. So there you go. Scientific proof that cats are good for you! The second most wonderful invention in life is the book. I love books. Just today I went into yet another wormhole of a different space-time continuum (“I’l just pop into the library for 5 minutes to collect a reserve”) and staggered out with a large basket of books an hour later. You are allowed take out 12 books at a time now. 12! And sometimes if I am stuck the library staff let me take out an extra couple as well, just in case! It’s a whole universe of possibilities. The third best invention in life is chocolate. I have been vegetarian most of my life but went vegan a year ago. I was a bit worried about my chocolate intake but have been able to relax by keeping about 6 bars of dark chocolate hidden from myself in the press. As Homer might say, Mmmmm….chocolate! Okay, that’s it, I have to go and have some chocolate now, while reading a book and with at least one cat on my person. Could Nirvana be any better than this?!
It’s been a rough year, and it’s only May. I won’t go into the gory details of why, except to say that an elderly mother is part of the equation. For those of you caring for an elderly parent, enough said. So I have needed to regroup. Part of what I have done in the last few months was to take a sabbatical from writing anything other than my Morning Pages (from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.) It has been a time of paring down commitments in order to give myself time to recover. One of the great things that has supported me is the Tai Chi class I started going to last October. I love it. It requires total attention to detail so the thinking mind has to go on holiday. It’s also very graceful and flowing, like a slow dance. We do the form, or practice of the 108 moves, in total silence. I find it incredibly peaceful. Mobile phone off, quietness, and moving meditation. It teaches you patience, because you practice and practice and then one day, you find that you know a bit of it, and gradually add a little more to what you know. It can’t be rushed. I know about the first eight moves and the two snake movements, that’s all. I bought a bamboo plant and put it in a pot in the back garden. The bamboo is on one side of me and the shed is on the other in a very small space as I try to practice the little I know out of sight of the neighbours, so that they won’t call for a strait jacket for me. The second string of my regaining my equilibrium has been my daily meditation practice, a godsend in tough times. It’s a lovely rest for the mind and helps me focus on all my blessings, of which there are many. Of course the cats are a great help too. Felicity leaped on a sheet hanging over the stairs last week, and slid down the bannister with claws stuck in the fabric, a look of total shock on her face. It was the funniest thing I have seen all year and gave me a much-needed belly laugh. So I am grateful for all mercies, large and small, and especially the way the Universe responded when I asked for help in regaining my joie de vivre. Try it. Sure what have you got to lose?! 🙂
Yesterday I went to the library and emerged, as usual, with a basket of books and a big smile on my face. I have never lost my enthusiasm for going to the library and to me, it is like an Aladdin’s Cave of treasures and possibilities. Not only do they offer books, but of course there are audio books, CDs, MP3s, and DVDs. It’s like a permanent and ongoing lottery win. I’ve just finished listening to the mellifluous voice of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes telling wonderful archetypal stories on the mythology of the crone, while driving my ancient Nisssan Micra grubby with dog hair and cat fur. Quite subversive, don’t you think?! A couple of years ago the library increased the number of books you are allowed to take out to twelve. Twelve! I was thrilled! My motto is that a book and a cat in each room in the house makes a happy home. Yesterday afternoon I turned the phone off and delved into a selection with large, black, furry Sid on my knee. This afternoon it was Felicity’s turn. Could there be anything better than having a purring cat on your knee in front of the fire as you read a good book? Seriously? And as a writer, I can call it “research!” Way to go. The simple pleasures are always the ones that delight the heart and fill the soul.