Living aloft in my skyship
Watching the blue from my star-gazy pie
Is it the clouds that are sailing along
Or am I?
I love living in the Garret.
I’ve been busy busy busy these last few days with no mind left over to blog, whirling around on a thinkabout concentrating ferociously.
A chance came to me. It is not longing that reveals our heart’s desire, but opportunity.
Since forever I have yearned to live in a small hut in a quiet place, close to the living earth, with nature just outside the door. No electricity, rainwater from the roof not city water from tubes. No wires and connecting pipes winding round the unseen underneaths connecting it as tight as death to all the Mammon systems. No TV. No housephone. Just rain and sun, fire and earth, the smell of the dust and the grass and the wildflowers, the sound of the wind and the birds.
And at the weekend the Badger said I could have his shed – his special shed where his carpentry things are and the garden tools. The family said that would be OK. Alice and Hebe would make room for his woodbench in their studio. And I was overjoyed. It was exactly what I have wanted. For a day I walked in contentment. And then reality set in.
It would make a little space between the Badger and me – a little lonely isolating space. Not good in a marriage. The Badger would come home to the Garret and the things that signal I am alive and well would not be there. Even if when he is home I slept there at night with him, I would have my place and he would have his place – nowhere in the world would be our place any more.
Two workbenches a stone-banker and a ceramics kiln would not fit into the studio comfortably even if you took all the tools and etceteras out and didn’t bother trying to go in there yourself. Plus Alice and Hebe are the quietest take-up-the-smallest-space people on God’s earth, where the Badger is the noisiest person I have ever met. He can play our silent spacious home like a kettle-drum. Can you imagine them trying to work at the same time in the same small studio? Yes? Then you are born to write fiction: go ahead.
Alice’s work as a stained glass maker is taking off. Does she need a carpenter airlifting down into the small world of her imaginative space? Possibly not.
And the garden tools? And the buckets and pots of things to kill slugs and things to paint walls and things to feed flowers? They would go where exactly? Racked onto the plain white walls of the studio? Stacked into the understairs cupboard with the vacuum cleaner and the ladder and the broom and the box of tools and the iron and everything else that fills it up already. Nah-ah.
As an idea, as a generosity, this was a gift to me more welcome (by a long way) and more precious than a ring set with diamonds, rubies and pearls. I have always loved my family. I loved them extra for saying I could have this wonderful thing. But I could also see it would chuck an asteroid into the little planet we have just spent three years establishing. Way is not given, as the Quakers say. Or time is not yet. I will carry on watching for the kairos.
But it set my mind in a whirl, a whole flight of question marks took off like bats at dusk from the hidden eaves of my thinkabout, which creaked and groaned and began to turn, going faster and faster until it nearly threw me off.
And through the blur I saw with clear sight that the answer is the same answer it always is. Simplify. Divest. Keep pushing on.
If I can become really simple – like St Francis, like Jesus, it will not matter where I am, the simplicity will gather about me like light and emanate from me like a fragrance.
Are there possessions I am still clinging to that I don’t need? Sure there are. Am I disciplined yet in what I eat? I’m thinking about zero-packaging, local, organic, vegan, alkalising not acidizing, sugar-free, compassionate, earth-friendly, from small local shops? Er . . . no. Or more precisely – hahaha! A long way to go and a history of scrapes and bruises from falling off the wagon every time we turn a corner. Have I made the most space for silence and solitude? No. Are my words always necessary, true and kind? Sadly, not. Am I faithful and conscientious in always using rainwater not citywater, in composting all body wastes? Mostly but not 100%. Have I applied the brakes to spending money? W-e-e-e-l-l-l-l . . . kinda. I think I need new brake pads. There are still minor clothes adjustments in establishing a plain and modest wardrobe that is not head-turning anachronistic re-enactment get-ups but a collection of invisibility suiting so I can move through the world as unseen as a rat along the foot of the wall in the shadows at dusk. But at least, I have hurled overboard almost all cosmetics and toiletries. Essential oils, cider vinegar and bicarb are my friends.
So you can see I have a ways to go before I am even at the foothills of the quiet mountain.
What I am lacking is not a hut but the tremendous gift of self-discipline. What I wanted is to go where appliances and plumbing are not, so I don’t have to make the continual effort of making the choice, making the choice – the hard choice against the shortcuts that are shredding Mother Earth. Renouncing was never my strong point.
But I glimpsed, as I whirled round on my thinkabout with my thoughtbats diving and dipping and fluttering madly through twilights and nights, that if I can build my poustinia in my heart, and clad it with habit energy, then I shall be solid as a mountain. I shall have begun.
Keep walking, pilgrim.
Ah – what a good find was this! A soft warm waterfall cardigan from East – reduced, ladies and gentlemen, from £85 to £20! I bought it when I was freezing cold in freezing cold Oxford, meeting Mary at the Randolph for morning coffee. I had come up from the much warmer South Coast in The Wrong Clothes (I cannot tell you how often this has happened to me). I was mauve, I was goose-pimply, I was almost hypothermic – but this was the Randolph and I needed to look passing tidy if not as elegant as others (certainly not as elegant as Mary – being American, her sartorial chic reaches English royal family standards – she is as beautiful and well-groomed as a model!) So I dived into East and rushed to the sale section at the back and dug out a merino tunic and WARM cardi. Phew! Much better! I rolled up my thin top with the three-quarter sleeves and stowed it in my bag, making a mental note to keep it for the summer. But this cardi is a goodbye as well as a good buy. Once reunited with my usual snuggly warms, the need for it evaporated.
This is representative of a herd of lipsticks cluttering up my life and now dispensed with. Lest I hit a crisis of confidence I have retained one or two. I did have, here in my
365 366 photo archive several days running with either a lipstick or a pot of bronzer/blusher; but reviewing the archive this struck me as boring in the extreme, and as the year has rolled on my chuck-out has not (as I feared it would) dwindled in material and run dry. Not a bit of it, it’s got wilder and wilder and the things flung overboard have increased in size and number as time has gone on. So I have deleted a few lipsticks and replaced with a greater variety of flung spume.
Like this, for example, which replaced in the archive a Bourjois lipgloss with a rather revolting toffee flavour. I mean, I did chuck the lipgloss out, I just think you will have got the point from the lipstick.
Anyway, this was (clearly) my address book. I still know your name and where you live (if I ever did), but you are stored electronically now.
Something strange happened to that photo. Why is it in two sections?
What’s this? Oh, God bless you, a couple of Edwardian lace fichus I bought in desperation on eBay while still struggling with headcovering. What a mistresspiece of dainty craftswomanship and how utterly, irritatingly un-simple and unnecessary. A plain cap, a graceful tichel, fair enough – but away with the strings and the fringes, away with the lace! For me personally, that is. I mean, if you like lace, you have it! Don't let the religious police snatch your ribbons or behead your statuettes!