Wednesday, 15 March 2017
Friday, 10 March 2017
Not for the first time I have wintered well due to books. We have far more than we read, to be honest. But it's such a comfort to have a bookcase full with ones that are dear friends and others that are not yet known to me. I have just finished Thin Paths by Julia Blackburn. It's a lyrical meandering tale of life in the mountains of Northern Italy, part reflection on life, part nature writing, part travel writing. The tales of village life are captured beautifully and simply, although what is being recounted (hardship, poverty and atrocities of the second world war) is not easy reading. I'd first come across Julia Blackburn on Radio 4 reading Murmurations of Love, Grief and Starlings, her poem of loss written after the death of her husband, Herman. Thin Paths makes her life with him come alive and shows that our paths intersect and weave alongside others' paths, creating beauty even in the simplest of lives lived.
I am always trying to understand our son's autism. I want to understand his brain, how he thinks, how he processes information. Of course I can't do this anymore than I can with my other boys, or my husband, but there is always that hope that somehow by reading all that I can about autism I will get in there. I read a lot, ranging from the serious, academic stuff to the practical advice giving blogs. In the beginning after receiving the diagnosis that changed our lives forever I did an enormous amount of reading as though words, explanations and theories would somehow soothe and calm me. In fact it did the opposite. I quickly became overwhelmed by all the information when all I wanted was to fix things. There is no 'fixing' this but there is understanding and now I choose much more carefully what I read. Oliver Sacks' book An Anthropologist on Mars is a series of essays about people with different neurological conditions (including autism) and opens a door into that wonderful thing - the brain - and the complicated beauty of life.
Which brings me to Gratitude. Not 50 pages long here are four short essays written by Sacks as he faced illness, old age and death. Sometimes I find comfort when I'm not looking for it. And here it is, on the last page... "And now, weak, short of breath, my once firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life - achieving a sense of peace within oneself."
Wednesday, 8 March 2017
There are signs of Spring for sure. Today has been the warmest yet. Blue skies and none of the damp grey drizzle that had seemed to settle so firmly over the hills. Hellebores, crocuses and the dwarf tulips are out and the daffodils aren't too far behind. The wild garlic is doing well and we're already looking forward to making pesto with it. However March being March means that the fires are still lit everyday and the wood pile must be tended to as there's still that chance of frost and winter weather. Today though we are in Spring, and glad of it.
Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Thursday, 9 February 2017
snowdrops and winter jasmine
crocus egg cup
It was winter out there this morning. No frost, just biting cold and grey skies. It almost felt like snow weather. We are keeping our eyes peeled for signs of Spring. The snowdrops are up and so are the crocuses. Blackbirds dash from the hedgerow and there are three robins who vie for food at the backdoor. It's too easy to stay indoors, warm and mollycoddled by the fire but it's where I want to be. At least these woodblock prints by Matt Underwood are chanelling Spring even if the weather isn't quite there yet.
Monday, 6 February 2017
We are still in winter. I know that February is the beginning of Spring, but in name only I think. There are snowdrops and crocuses out in the garden, and little green spears of tulips and daffodils pushing up from the cold earth but there's also days of frost and other days of fog. Every day though there's a walk, regardless of what the weather's doing. And there's fire. It's one of the best things about winter. The fire is lit first thing in the morning and by the afternoon a second one is humming in the sitting room and then it doesn't matter what's going on outside, for inside we are warm. And we are glad of it.
Tuesday, 24 January 2017
I'm just finishing off The North Water by Ian McGuire which has been a heaving read set on a rolling whaling vessel in the Arctic, where the hero (surgeon Patrick Sumner) doesn't come off too well and the villain of the piece, Henry Drax, is of such malevolence and raw power with an instinct to survive so powerful that you can't take your eyes off him nor believe he could ever be vanquished. To compensate for all that unrelenting tension and drama I'm also reading the classic Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. This is a gorgeous hardback edition and although I've only read the first 40 pages I know this is a book that will have something to say to me for the rest of my life. Written over 60 years ago it gives gentle advice about how to balance life, family, work, marriage and finding space to be yourself while advocating a paring down, a simplification in order to be at peace.