We’re almost at the end of January and, unsurprisingly I haven’t managed to get outside for a walk every day since the start of term. In fact, I haven’t had a day free of schoolwork either and I am losing my battle with psoriasis – always a ‘thing’ in January with its lack of sunlight. Somehow a quick turn around the garden and sorting my seeds ready for sowing is a poor substitute for getting some dirt under my fingernails and the elements on my face.
At times like these you have to seize what crumbs of hygge you can.
Our teenagers are slow to rise on Sundays when there are no morning sports fixtures. Some want breakfast; others don’t. The whole day can have a disparate feel which throws me out of kilter. So yesterday, with the ironing finished and a glut of milk in the fridge I made pancakes. Everyone appeared around the table – even the son who didn’t want to eat – and we spent half an hour having a chat over coffee and lemony pancakes. I don’t want anything fancy in January.
And the sun popped out from behind the clouds for a short while and bathed the table in dappled sunshine.
On some days of the week I get into work early leaving my husband to sort out packed lunches, breakfast and setting our teenagers off to school. On these occasions I have time to sit and think before the business of the day gets underway. Printing materials for class, last minute marking feedback and the listening to teenage angst are put aside. School days are packed with conversations and I crave the silence of an empty classroom to centre me in preparation for these – space to slow down and relax a bit.
A five-minute morning meditation is a simple, easy ritual that can have tons of benefits. Taking time to focus entirely on the present is easy enough in the holidays but once term is underway it becomes more difficult but more necessary. Establishing a routine is vital. I brew a pot of coffee and carry it up to my classroom with my favourite mug to begin. I’m lucky in that my room looks out on the science department garden and greenhouse but I keep my focus on the jam jar of fresh seasonal flowers that always sits on my desk. I like the changing of the seasons reflected in my flower choices. Most are home-grown. It’s no surprise that I was a regular contributor to the nature table when I was a school pupil. Then, whilst seated in my chair it’s all about controlling my breathing and gently letting all the thoughts that flood my mind float away as and when they appear.
It takes about three weeks of determined effort to establish a routine and then it becomes second nature. I highly recommend it for both teachers and students whose minds are constantly at work. Of course it takes time to train your mind to be in the present. Silence can be a scary place for teenagers, but great things can happen in the silence.
Emily Dickinson reflected that the passing from one year into another is a time to reflect on “how many things we have omitted to do which might have cheered a human heart, or whispered hope in the ear of the sorrowful…” My Twitter feed is buzzing with resolutions of spending more time with family and friends, slowing down, rekindling hobbies and volunteering.
I am determined to tackle the build up of clutter. This will cheer my heart. January is a good time for a bonfire. Yesterday’s prunings from the garden and some old paperwork made a good blaze on a chilly late afternoon. There’s something relaxing about watching woodsmoke curl upwards with a cup of coffee in your hands. There will be other bonfires this month as we prune the fruit trees, the wisteria and the roses whilst they’re still dormant.
Getting the teenagers to sort through their wardrobes and fill a bag for the charity shop will also gladden my heart – as will clearing my backlog of filing, sorting through the seed tin, making a list and ordering seeds to sow in a few weeks time. There are a myriad studies about the benefits of clearing clutter – whether you’re into feng shui or just crave a dust-free clear work surface, having a clear out gives you an opportunity to sort, organise and simplify your life, space to be creative and productive and a feeling of well-being.
Happy New Year.
It’s the end of a year. Time to reflect, say goodbye, make plans and move on for some. For others it’s an opportunity to party.
I crave fresh air and to be with those I love.
Later I light the fire and lose myself in the flickering flames and read a beautiful book about the curative power of nature. It takes me an hour.
Whatever 2019 brings I wish you joy and for myself, I’m hoping for more days like these.
Some Christmas traditions change; some remain. But there will always be a craving to get outside, seek the light and to curl up later with some heat in Midwinter. This year there has been no trifle and no mince pie making, no holly and no huge get together with friends on Boxing Day. There has been a magnificent Christmas dinner, Monopoly and Cluedo, log fires, cake, crackers, homemade chutney and cheese and new books to enjoy.
Today we took ourselves off to Stourhead for a midwinter tramp around. Later I planted a new hellebore underneath the laburnum in the front garden at dusk, then scuttled back indoors for some heat in the form of cumin,paprika and chillies stirred through mashed sweet potatoes and steamed buttered kale for an easy supper.
December 22nd – fireside tales
There’s nothing better than cosying up on the sofa with your special ones. Our hunt to find a Carol concert we could all make never bore fruit this year and so this Saturday night was spent beside our own hearth eating chocolates, drinking wine and watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.
When the children were young we watched Fireman Sam and Postman Pat’s Magical Christmas, progressed on to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and one memorable year The Box of Delights in installments on the radio. I so miss those days of sharing stories every night at bedtime with my children and a pre-Christmas evening all together sharing a good story is precious time well-spent. We still get together fairly regularly even though our children are now young adults, usually to watch box sets of detective series. But George Bailey’s story gets an outing every year at Christmas.
If you do little else together as your children grow up share stories with them, have conversations and get together over food and drink. Life is busy but these moments count.
December 18th – friends are not just for Christmas
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without any meet-ups with friends and I have one organised for every day this week seeing mamas with whom I used to spend a lot of time on rugby touchlines or on flower patch activities and now see all too infrequently. Potted bulbs or chutney will be handed over, news will be shared, tears of joy and sadness will be given free rein and cake or mince pies will be consumed.
Sweet and simple pleasures of the season. Time to live in the moment and just be. Highly recommended.
The year is turning.
October Half Term is my favourite holiday.
It’s a chance to put the garden to bed for the winter, hold the odd bonfire, get the chimney swept and restock the woodpile, make chutney, mincemeat, Christmas cake, put away the summer dresses, get out the cosy sweaters from the attic and buy a new pair of boots.
It’s a chance to take stock and to embrace the change that the colder weather and darker nights brings.
This year, more than ever I am relishing the time spent as a family for we are hurtling towards that time when the eldest of our three children strikes out on his own. This time next year, with a lot of hard work and a bit of luck he’ll be at university. How time slips through your fingers when you are a parent.
I’m determined to savour every moment. Looking up at tonight’s beautiful Hunter’s Moon – coffee mug in hand – it is extraordinary to reflect on how quickly the eighteen years have passed since I took my seven-week-old son outside to show him the Hunter’s Moon.