I’ve made another patchwork square for your Dear Daughter quilt. This one is called Farmer’s Daughter. I fussy cut the bees for some pieces, but left others so they look like they are scurring under the centre pieces. It would have worked more effective if the red fabric had less white. I’m hoping it shows from a distance.
With every finished square, I include a letter to you. Often I think about my words as I add little stitches to pull the bits of fabric together. The repeating action of sewing concentrates my mind and I can focus on what I want to say. Other thoughts can wait, which fits nicely with the topic I’ve chosen this time. Time to launch in to my letter….
There are no two ways about it. Life can serve up some real humdingers of moments, that we’d prefer to write out of our day. We all have them. We really do. Easy to dwell. Easy to let them pull us down. Easy to let five minutes of something not going our way, to make the whole day feel like a write-off.
So often we forget, dismiss or simply don’t register the simple joys in life, instead focusing on the bad. It’s the way we’re wired. A survival trait.
In basic terms, since time beyond, we are set up to pass on warnings and danger messages so we, and the rest of our community or tribe, survive. There is an immediate benefit from hearing about a wolf seen attacking local sheep. Less true of learning that the lilac down by the river smells particularly good this year. Especially if you depend on your sheep, rather than lilacs, for survival. In this case, focusing on the bad saves lives.
In modern terms, the gossip might fly about the cafe in town that’s linked to a possible food poisoning outbreak, or the road works that add time to your journey and cause major inconvenience. All will be discussed in detail and at length, while a rainbow overhead fades unnoticed.
With the focus on danger and disruptions, it does mean that we need to work a little harder at seeing life’s joy and making it part of us. Hang on. Wait a minute. Why does it matter, you may ask? Good question. I should cover that first.
I think it matters because each of those moments of joy lift our spirits and strengthens us. In contrast, being under a cloud of stress and anxiety leaves us depleted. Try tackling a day in that state and I think you’ll see the advantage of experiencing an uplift instead. Even if it is only fleeting.
By focusing on the small, or seemingly less critical (think lilac), we also glimpse the bigger picture. We gain perspective. It takes us out of ourselves and that is a good thing. A moment to step back, regroup, and then on to tackle at least some of what life can throw at us, slightly stronger than we were before.
Let me give you an example. It’s spring at the moment. We’ve spotted the first swifts of the year, flying over the house. What a sight for winter weary eyes. Often they are flying as pairs, but soon they’ll be more than we can count as they weave and streak through the sky above our heads, outmaneuvering flies to munch on.
Here comes the part that always catches my breath and makes me smile: they’ve flown all the way back from Africa to our patch of the world. Reportedly, without stopping. Just take a moment to think about it. Those little birds have covered thousands of miles, and they do it every year of their lives. Awesome. We witness only the end and the start of their epic journey.
I’m not sure why I was so worried about the traffic jam now. I’ll leave earlier. Although, I might loiter a little longer to watch the swifts dart above my head. ‘Tis a joy.
So how do we see life’s joy in our daily lives? Like gold dust it can be spread thin and difficult to grasp, but with practise it becomes easier. Look around. Stand still and look up. Stop, listen and notice. Take a moment and experience it. For one moment, give yourself permission to not think about the past or overthink the future. Be.
Here are some ideas on how to lose yourself and see the joy:
1. Go outside and take a camera. There is nothing like spotting something new – be it flower, insect or street art – to make you look. I mean really look. Frame it in the camera lens. Take the photo. (this is one of my favourite ways – just look at my instagram feed) Alternatively draw it.
2. Do something you really enjoy doing to the best of your abilities. Entirely for you. Baking, playing the harp, drawing, plant a seed. Concentrating. Getting lost in the process. If you make something, feel free to throw it away at the end, if you want. It’s all about the journey. (Although cake is nice. Just saying.)
3. Spend time with someone you like/love and enjoy their company. Fly a kite. Laughter is compulsory with this one, of course.
4. Find music that really resonates with you. Play it. Dance. Sing. Tap your toes. Lose yourself in it.
5. Meditate. Cloud watch. Stand out in the summer rain.
You will find your own method. Lose yourself in the process. Take no baggage with you. Tomorrow can wait. It will take practise, but the good news is that what ever method you choose, it will make you happy. In a better place to deal with whatever comes next. I know you can do it.
Wishing joy to all.
your loving mother
One of my most favourite family traditions in our year, is the yule log. No chocolate icing or plastic robin involved. Just family, the fire place and our yule log.
Every winter solstice, we select one log from our log store, bring foliage in from the garden and use it to decorate the log. It wouldn’t seem complete without holly and ivy. I added rosemary in this year, for the fragrance.
Then each member of the family is given a piece of paper and pencil. They secretly write down something that they would like to let go of from the last year. Turning a negative into a positive as the new year starts.
Then each piece of paper is folded and tucked in among the greenery and the log goes in the fire. We watch it burn. A very special quiet, as we think about the words we chose.
Of course, one of the dogs decided that she had the best position by the fire and was not going to move. Whatever her family wanted to do. Sigh.
Happy Solstice. Blessings to you all at the turn of the year.