Looking back at 2020

Reflecting on this year has been difficult. There has been so much change to the way we all live. When the first lockdown arrived I chose to treat the next few weeks as a retreat. This was good but I found it quite hard to do. I missed the company of others and the face to face chats. I did not have access to Skype or other similar media at that time and I felt quite lonely at times.

After a while I found solace in my garden, watching the birds nest and produce young and watching the plants grow. As time went by I found that the highlight of my week was when my son visited as part of my ‘bubble’. This made life much better and we were able to go out and visit nature reserves. This enabled me to go to places I could not have gone to otherwise as I do not drive. I found these visits inspiring and exhilarating as we saw species I had not seen before. I took many photos and decided to make a scrapbook of the garden and these visits. I have filled two scrapbooks so far and half of another one.

I tried to walk every day but this became far too much and there were far too many people around. I started research projects and creative things like sewing and knitting and have eventually settled into a different existence. I write more, create more and I am looking forward to meeting others when the time comes. In many ways I have become more insular both by myself and with my son in our ‘bubble’. It’s as if the world outside our small radius no longer exists.

It was not until quite recently that I went into town. I needed money from the bank and I missed my sewing and knitting magazines. My son came with me and helped me through the sanitising process of shopping in stores. But I find I am not really interested in going shopping. I have never been a shopper that browses and used to just go with a list and get what was on the list. I think that goes back to when I had very little money and could only afford what was essential.

But there have been days and weeks when I have felt very down and did not want to get out of bed. These times come and go and I expect are the result of the way of life I am now living. I feel for others in similar and in worse situations. At least I have a garden and a hedge full of birds. I used to enjoy the winter days when the sky was blue and the sun shone. This last month the days seem to have been grey and wet which I find quite depressing but I noticed that the blue tits have returned.

I have done a lot of reading, light fiction and other deeper stuff and have bought myself a webcam so now I have more learning to do. But life is a journey with many lessons on the way and it is true that you learn something new every day. Overall I have managed. Some days have been exceptionally good, others quite bad and then there are plenty of what I can only call passable days. But my way of life has changed in many ways and I have survived so far.

In some areas, the community have got together to make sure every one has what they need and to help those who cannot do shopping on-line or get other things. There has been a wealth of help for the vulnerable especially families who find themselves in poverty through no fault of their own. There is more caring going on too and this is good. Many have realised what is most important in life and it is not the latest phone or gadget or the latest fashion clothing.

I always felt there was a purpose for the virus, that it was meant to make us stop and think what we were doing in our lives, the way we were abusing our planet and how we wasted stuff. I felt the virus would disappear when we all realised that we had to change. But the virus is still here so what does that tell me? I think we have a long way to go and maybe with the effect of climate change we have left it too late. I am trying hard to stay positive about the future and holding a vision in my mind of a world where we live in peace and work together in peace and respect each other knowing that we all have a part to play and that these parts can be different for each of us.

So let’s see what 2021 brings. Happy New Year to you all!

Winter Solstice

The longest night is here and the end of the deep darkness. A new light arrives, a new year where I am concerned. I always feel that my new year starts at the winter solstice as the light returns although it takes some time before it can be seen.

I do not do well with dark days and nights. Today is no exception as it is only now starting to get light and it is raining. But I know that the hours of daylight will be longer and I can look forward to the next few months as new life starts. Although I noticed in the local country park last week that the willows had started to produce their little furry catkins. And I also have cowslips flowering in the garden.

A long time ago I wrote a poem about Alban Arthuan, the Winder Solstice. Here it is although I am sure I could write better poetry nowadays.

Now is the time of the longest night

When the dark is at its deepest.

We remember and mourn the light we knew

And await its return to our land.

But out in the darkness, there shines a light

Of hope and inspiration.

As the Mabon appears, the child of the Sun

To banish our fears and guide us.

We thank those who helped us through the dark

And the Fire that warmed our hearts.

But now it is time for the light to return

And fill our lives with love and peace.

Believing in yourself

This week has been enlightening in some ways but I will come to that later. My childhood and years up until my mid fifties were full of words and actions that made me have no confidence in what I did. I was never good enough for my mother and whatever I did she felt I had let her down. So that made it difficult for me to believe in myself. I was working during a time when women were meant to stay at home and look after the children. This attitude was common in areas such as teaching and academic work as I found out when I might have needed a bit of encouragement.

Yet I did things I loved. I played the piano, did my sewing and knitting, and painted in oils and acrylics as well as sketched landscapes in pencil. I learned how to do other crafts via short day courses for teachers and I was always good at these or so I thought. I remember one teaching colleague who told me I was good at a lot of things but did not do any of them outstandingly well. This from a colleague who watched me take part in a piano competition and win!

It was not until my mid fifties that I started to change and find out who I really was and who I was meant to be. This exploration took years and is still ongoing and there are times even now when I stop believing in what I am doing. The years of what can only be called mental and emotional abuse have left their mark. But this week changed that. My son was helping me to do a links page for my new website. He asked how many blogs I had and I started to think about this. I have far more blog sites than I thought but I had started some then done nothing much with them. I looked at all these blog sites and have started to update them. This made me think of the books I have written too. Yesterday I took a long trawl through all the photos on my computer, landscapes, photos of my paintings and craft work. There were hundreds of these dating back around 15 years. This has made me appreciate what I have done over the years. Then I looked at how many Reiki students I had taught over the years. That too made me think that I could believe in myself more after 25 years of working on myself.. But my story shows how easy it is to let others stop you from believing in yourself so be aware what your relatives and friends are saying to you.

One of my paintings

Being thankful

The last few weeks seem to be full of people complaining about what they want to do and can’t do, what they want and can’t have and so on. We have so much to be thankful for. As many of you know I love social history research and have spent some months this year looking at orphans and disabled people living in orphanages and the workhouse. My grandmother who was born in 1890 was terrified of having to go in the workhouse even though they were no longer in existence in the 1950s. Life in the workhouse was hard. If you were disabled in any way and your family could not look after you then you went into the workhouse. Women who had illegitimate babies often ended up in the workhouse and were often classed as feeble minded. There was no Social Security, no Housing Benefit and no NHS. Houses did not have running water either for a long time and many families shared some form of toilet in a yard. Life was totally different then and has changed greatly and for the better in many cases although we still have homeless people.

So what can we be thankful for? We are alive of course and most of us have everything that we actually need to live a reasonable life but there are still many who live in poverty and the current situation has brought this to our notice. If we have plenty then we can share with others, toys for children, food for families and so on. But in this century no one should be without a roof over their head or without enough food and clothing. Many of us are in a position where we can do something to help but it needs changes to the law for some things to get better. Volunteers do wonderful work but that work should not be necessary.

So be thankful for what you have and offer help to others less fortunate and find ways to make sure that it doesn’t happen to you or your family or those that you know. When employment is in short supply and money too then think how you can help to make life easier for others. Would you want to be in a position where you had no food or clothes and had to camp outside under a blanket in the cold and snow?