Do you make new year’s resolutions? I try to as a means of slowing down the whirl of my year, of taking the opportunity to reflect on what has gone well or less well for me this year and how I hope to reassemble myself again as the days begin to get longer. What bulbs have I planted last year that I hope to see blooming for me in the spring? I used to aim for world peace now I set slightly more achievable goals whilst still hoping for that one too. I hope to do something I haven’t done before each year however large or small and next week I shall be running a writing workshop at Root & Branch, the mental health charity we set up many years ago at Westmill.
It has got me looking back at poetry and writing that I have not revisited for a while and also thinking about how we unlock our creativity. Creativity is a very broad term for me and does not just mean the arts but could be cooking, walking or running, mending cars. In fact all our interactions can be creative or just dull and routine. What makes the difference? I think an aliveness. A willingness to get things wrong knowing that is how you get things right and honesty and playfulness. I played Bannagram over Christmas (a version of Scrabble where you play individually but in a group – I know that makes no sense at all. Look it up!) and it was striking to me that the person who won most often was the one prepared to keep starting again, reforming all their words in the face of receiving new letters. They were responsive to change. It seems to me we need this flexibility more than ever in our fast shifting world. And it made me think about attachments to old possessions and ways of thinking and how we should always be asking ourselves if they still serve us or if the time has come to let them go. This is particularly relevant for us this year since we will be moving over nearer to the burial ground and the process of clearing out a much loved home occupied by three generations of the same family has quietly begun to unfold. William Morris said “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” A good maxim but I would add amusing into the mix. And in knowing this is coming I am suddenly so vividly alive to the beauties of our current home which I had, of course, begun to take for granted. Right now the soft predawn light as it comes in to our landing is exquisite. Dreamlike – like being underwater. Gwen John the painter often captures this quality of light in her still delicate portraits. I lie in bed half awake trying simply to enjoy it without trying to grasp at it or hold it fast. Light shifts, water seeps away, leaves fall, we move and people we love die. Somehow we have to find a stillness from which to live with all of this. After Christmas brings back our young to the fold we have to recalibrate as they leave again leaving the fridge full and our hearts a little squeezed as we adjust to the quieter rhythm of our everyday. As I said goodbye to my daughter I could feel her love and her eagerness to slip back into the stronger, more lively, current of her life and my own sadness to let her go and equal desire to see her swimming confidently away. I told her and that felt good – acknowledging both emotions in equal measure. As I walked back to my car I wished, as we so often do, that I could tell my mother that I now understand the farewells between us when I was younger from the other side. I feel so blessed to have my children and those I am close to in my life. I shall continue the practice of counting my blessings which I find remarkably helpful when life seems hard. Once I was grateful for finding a dry tea towel! It was all I could think of and somehow it made a difference. Happy new year everyone.