Friday, 28 October 2011

Busy Bee

So much for posting all this week about my beloved dead! I've been rushed off my feet for the last couple of days. One minute life is plodding along quite nicely, the next it all goes haywire! Not in a bad way, its actually been a very enjoyable couple of days, but there hasn't been much time to slow down and take stock.

At first I felt a little guilty about that; after all I had friends and family members all lined up to be honoured by a post of their very own. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I shouldn't feel guilty at all. In fact, I should actually be rather pleased. It means I am living my life, just as I should be. Just as they would want me to.

There is no better way of honouring those we cared about, those we loved, than by getting on with our lives. Each and every one has had an impact on my life; has altered my way of thinking, has helped me to become the person I am today. I honour them every day when I get out of bed...when I live, and love, when I laugh or cry, when I dance, when I gaze at the dawn, or the sea, or the stars.

I honour them every minute of every day.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Baking Up Memories

I can't do a series of posts about loved ones who have passed without writing about my Grandma. She was only 56 when she died, although at only twelve she seemed like an old lady to me. Now in my 40's with time speeding by, 56 doesn't seem that far away and I know when I reach 56 I won't feel like an old lady even if my grandchildren see me as one :-)

I hope, that when I finally pass (later rather than sooner I'm in no rush!) my grandchildren have memories of me as rich and happy as the ones I have of my Grandma. I used to spend the day with my grandparents during school holidays whilst my mother was at work and there was nothing I loved more than being allowed to put the sheets through the mangle for her, or standing on a stool to reach the work top and helping her bake. It was my Grandma who taught me to cook. We baked scones and biscuits and good old fashioned cakes and my brother and I would fight over who got to lick the spoon. And then to keep us quiet she'd sit us on the front step with a cup of sugar and a stick of rhubarb each. Can you imagine giving a child that much sugar these days?!!!!! But I loved it and its still a treat I enjoy today.

My grandma died far too young but there is no sadness when I remember her, because every memory, yes every single one, is good. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Forever You'll Be Eyes Of Blue

Well its day two in the 'Samhain's a-coming' memories of loved ones posts, and I simply have to talk about Craig. I've been thinking about it since yesterday, wondering if I should. He was a major part of my teenage years and his death hit me badly. It took me a long time to come to terms with his passing. Is it wise, I wondered, to stir up old feelings? But the more I thought about it, the more I realised what a huge impact he had on my life. He'd be laughing at me now, telling me I don't need to do this, don't need to honour him, that he doesn't deserve it. But I do, and he does.

I was married with a child and hadn't seen him for a couple of years when I heard of his death, or rather read about it. A tiny snippet in the local paper under the awful heading 'Body found hanging'. It was 20 years ago but I still recall the feeling when I saw it, as fresh and real as though it were only yesterday; a gut wrenching, head spinning, sickening feeling that was all consuming. I forced back the tears for days in the foolish hope it was some kind of a mistake. I was numb. For a long time.

I was fifteen when I met him, and sixteen the first time we kissed. He wasn't a boyfriend. There was no 'relationship'. More an on-going saga. We dipped in and out of each other's lives. He clicked his fingers and I'd go running. It seemed very one sided at the time but looking back, I think it worked both ways. He taught me love was bitter sweet. He taught me life isn't always fair. He taught me things I won't talk about here! He taught me to respect myself and that its O.K to say No.
I set the bar by his standards. And the only time I ignored it was when I made the biggest mistake of my life.

He had an ego the size of a double decker bus (or at least it seemed that way), but he also had a great sensitivity, and the ability to really listen. And he was gorgeous! He had rugged features and long wavy hair. And the bluest of eyes that looked right into your soul.

For a long time my memories of Craig have made me sad and I pushed them to the back of my mind. I couldn't look at photographs, or visit the old haunts. My imaginings of his lonely death overtook my memories of his life.

So here I am remembering.

And its a memory full of long, lazy days and daisy chains. Of stolen kisses. Of Jelly (we won't go into that one!). Of  peach coloured roses and Thunderbird (oh my, did we really drink that stuff?!) and Walnut Whips. (Mmmmmmmn Walnut Whips! I'd almost forgotten about those. I don't know if you can buy them outside of the U.K so maybe some of you have no idea what I'm talking about. In fact there aren't even many places here that stock them now, but they are like little chocolate bee-hives full of sweet, sticky goo with a walnut on top and they are delicious.)

Just writing those things made me smile. It made me want to go and dig out the photo's. And they made me smile even more. And in amongst those photo's I found a book of poems. Like many teenage girls I couldn't so much as sneeze without writing a poem about it. I didn't know I'd kept them! They are very naive, some of them are so badly written it made me laugh, but they are heartfelt and tell a story of youth better than any diary or journal could. I haven't written a poem since my early 20's. What a shame! I have no idea why I stopped, just too busy  suppose.

Anyway, one of the poems I found was this. I wrote it for Craig, a few weeks after his death, when I visited the park where he had worked and where my friends and I had once spent so very much time.

Nothing's Changed 

The little things,
so meaningless,
mean so much to me now.
Like walnut whips,
and thunderbird,
a rose,
a touch,
a smile.
And I know the smell
of fresh cut grass,
would make me want to cry,
and that I'd recognise your footsteps
even after all this time.
But the footsteps are just echos,
your face,
a shadow,
in the trees;
your voice
just a sweet memory,
a murmur on the breeze.
The lazy days of long ago,
come flooding back unchanged,
and it seems like only yesterday
but time can't be rearranged.
So I wonder where you are now?
And if you know I'm here?
But I feel so warm
despite the wind,
and something dries my tears.
I half expect to see you,
when I look around again,
but I see so many memories
and know that nothing's changed.

Monday, 24 October 2011

My Grandfather's Garden

I'd been planning a series of posts for this week about my memories of loved ones and the giveaway over at Witch Blog fits in perfectly. So head on over there if you want a chance of winning a signed copy of Christian Day's The Witches Book of the Dead.

With Samhain drawing nearer and the dark closing in, my thoughts have been drifting more frequently towards those who have passed. I won't say those I have lost, because I haven't lost them. They are still near, still influence my thinking, still speak to my soul. They are still a part of life and I honour them all year round, but with Samhain approaching, with the veil thinning, it is time to celebrate their lives. It is time to tell their stories.

My great-grandfather was a gardener in a big house. He had been long retired by the time I was born but the garden of his home was immaculate. One of my earliest memories is of walking between the dahlias at the bottom of his garden. I must have been very young as I clearly remember looking up at the underside of the flowers as they towered above me. The very first thing I would do when we went to visit would be to run to the greenhouse to smell the tomatoes. I love the smell of tomato plants to this day and it never fails to take me back to the long, hot summers of my childhood. I'm sure I get my love of gardening from him although I'm not sure what he'd think of my little wilderness!

His life, and that of my Nana, was touched by tragedy. And more than their fair share too, I think. They lost one child in infancy, which although not uncommon back then, must have been devastating all the same. They lost another in WWII. My grandfather served in both wars. He lost an eye in WWI , he didn't talk about it but he used to lift his eye patch sometimes to show us! Being in his garden brought him peace; I think it was the only thing that did.

He was a quiet man, a strong man. He had a subtle humour and a big smile.

I still feel him with me; whenever things get really bad, when it seems that everything is falling apart, he is there. I don't see him, or hear him but I know he's there and without fail that's a sign that things are about to get a whole lot better.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

A Timely Reminder

Over at Hearthwitch Cottage there's a great post about being grateful. Avie asks What are you grateful for today? Its a good question. So often we get bogged down with all the problems we face and that clouds our view. Yesterday was a good example. It was a glorious autumn day. The sky was blue; the air was crisp but not cold and I went for a drive with my husband through the beautiful Cornish countryside. Yet I spent the day consumed with panic about an unexpectedly large (extortionate!!!) water bill. What a waste of a lovely day.

Last night when my husband came to bed (a couple of hours after I had), he said 'Thank You'. In my sleepy, only half awake state I wondered what on earth he was going on about. I reluctantly dragged myself towards full consciousness to hear him say how much he appreciates everything I do for him, how grateful he is for my support :-). It was lovely to hear and I went back to sleep with a smile on my face. He thinks he doesn't say things like that often enough, but actually he does. He sings my praises whenever, and wherever, he can; you only have to take a look through the posts on his blog to know that (and yes, that is a shameless plug). I think, maybe, I sometimes take his appreciation for granted.

So the post over at Hearthwitch Cottage was a timely reminder to appreciate all the little, lovely things that make life special and I think I'm going to adopt the idea (thanks Avie) of keeping a Gratitude Diary.

So what am I grateful for today?

For my husband, loving and gentle and utterly insane (that's a good thing by the way).
For my children and my step-children and the grandchildren they have given us. And all the joy, stress, fun and frustration they bring.
For having a roof over our heads because for a while there, we didn't.
For the experiences I've had, the good, the great, the bad, and the very bad. They have made me what I am today.
For the wind in my hair and the sound of the sea.

And I am grateful that in my kitchen cupboard there are ingredients to bake cakes...if I wanted to. Which I don't. I got off my broom, remember?

Sunday, 16 October 2011

A Challenge Too Far?

Last weekend I turned 42. The number itself doesn't bother me, ( no, not even the year the needle tipped from 39 to 40), but there is something about birthdays that makes me want to, I don't really know what it is exactly. Change? Move on? Ponder the ins and outs, ups and downs, of my life? What ever it is, it usually makes me DO things. Sometimes they can be quite dramatic things, like putting the wheels in motion to leave my abusive first husband. Other times it might be quite subtle like trying my hand at painting watercolours. Sometimes I manage to keep the momentum going and make real changes in my life, other times it just fizzles out.

This year was no exception, I felt the need to DO something. So I did. I signed up for the Get Off Your Broom fitness challenge over at The Domestic Pagan. Not only that I also signed up to take part in this years NaNoWriMo and committed myself to trying to write a novel of at least 50,000 words during the month of November!

Am I mad? You bet!

It seemed like a good idea at the time. After all I have put on a few pounds this summer and getting in shape can only be a good thing, right? And learning a bit of writing discipline by having to write each day might mean I finally get around to finishing the children's book I've been working on for like...forever. My motives are sound. I'm just not sure about the practicality of it all. It now means that for all of next month I've got to stick to my diet and exercise programme, and maintain all my usual commitments, all whilst I'm chained to my lap top churning out a minimum of 1666.66667 (so my calculator tells me) words a day!

If I don't spontaneously combust from all the pressure, I'll keep you informed on how I get on!!!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

You know you're getting old when you get wrinkle cream for your birthday!

Today's my birthday. I've just spoken to my youngest daughter and told her what a lovely, quiet, lazy day I'm having. When she stopped laughing she informed me that birthdays are not supposed to be quiet. She says the should be noisy, raucous, and wild. Then she asked me what presents I'd got. Cue more laughter.

So I'm having a quiet birthday. I got wrinkle cream from my mother. What's wrong with that?

I could have told her tales of birthdays from my youth and maybe she would have been impressed. Then again, maybe she'd have disowned me. I had a lot of fun, back in the day! But quite frankly I just haven't got the energy to paaaaartaaaaay anymore. And that's fine.

These days I prefer a bit of peace and quiet. I'd rather go for a walk on the beach than shop till I drop. I'd rather have a romantic meal with my husband than dance the night away. I'd rather spend time with the people I love. That may seem boring to my daughter. It may make me 'officially old', (yes she really said that!) but I don't care.

I'm very patient. I can bide my time. I know that one day she will understand. That will be the year I buy her wrinkle cream for her birthday.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Thinning of the Veil

It's been easy to forget, given the glorious weather we've been enjoying here in the U.K, that Samhain is creeping up on us. I like Samhain, its one of my favourite times of year, but I don't get swept away with enthusiasm for decorating our home and tripping over plastic pumpkins every time I turn around. If you do...Enjoy. And if you come knocking at my door trick-or-treating, I'll have plenty of goodies waiting for you by then :-)

I'm kind of hoping the lovely weather will hold until my birthday at the weekend but I won't be sorry to see a return to autumnal mists and a nip in the air. It seems more appropriate somehow. But even though the weather seams to have forgotten what to do in this season, the wheel is still turning. The sun sets a little earlier each day and rises a little later. The dark is coming. The veil is thinning. The dead are waiting for me to set a place at the table and invite them to the feast.

Today is my brother's birthday, but he is going to the funeral of a friend. On Thursday we have the funeral of a much loved uncle and events in the news have brought back to mind the tragic and brutal death of a lovely, vibrant, bubbly young girl I once knew. My feelings on that are too intense and quite probably too irrational to share. Part of me deep down knows I would not see the truly innocent punished, but the resurgence of my grief has chased away all objectivity...for now.

For now I welcome the thinning of the veil. I am glad the dead, the beloved, the ancestors, are close. I cherish the memories, I absorb the lessons, I revere the wisdom of those that have gone before. I celebrate the lives of those I have known.

Samhain is coming. The veil is thinning. The dead are gathering... Come on in my lovelies, I'll put the kettle on.