This week I tried to write this several times. And kept finding someone or something to feed instead. Words hovered, flirting with me, just out of reach, but not quite giving themselves up. Occasionally I caught a few in a word note but, before I tormented myself further, I unplugged everything, and plunged my hands into a bag of soil. Allowing the meditative process of discovering our new garden become therapy and distraction.
I had felt a little overwhelmed since finding heaven.
A few weeks ago I admitted to my best friend that I wasn’t feeling how I was supposed to, when finally, all the stars had aligned and everything was meant to be perfect.
Have you watched The Curse? Finding the gold can be just the beginning.
My best friend said she understood.
Because sometimes after we journey for a long time, all the travelling, all the surviving, all the growing and packing and letting go, and waiting and hoping and staying poker still and getting to the shore, getting to the treasure…
is bloody knackering.
Its easy for us to feel the most ‘found’, and the most ‘lost’ simultaneously. Have you ever arrived at an all inclusive midday, and wandered about looking disorientated while the rest of the hotel bask like oiled mackeral on their sunbeds?
New places take a while to get acclimatised to. Many moments of planned perfection are a recipe for an existential brain fog, just when all the feels are supposed to come.
This might sound a little new age, but I knew this house would find us one day . In every home I ever lived I felt I was looking for that elusive ingredient.
I began from an early age, (not of course knowing why , ) gathering visuals of a space I wouldn’t see for forty years.
As teenager I loved scrappy old images from home magazines and kept scrapbooks and journals, pulling apart County Living or Elle Decoration for inspiration and homes to covet.
Looking at them now, some twenty years later, most of them still resonate and it feel like I would choose the same images. Colours, aesthetics, and period styles are still typical of me. And I see that the books I read at the time, my music tastes, the vintage cars I loved, the clothing styles, all evolved but still belong to the same me. The colours and spaces that make our hearts sing, remain very unique to us, so when we do begin to do any life laundry, what matters most is holding on to stuff that makes you feel most at home, not simply riding the wave of the latest trend.
My earliest memories are of making spaces feel safe. As a little girl, the distorted voices of adults through the floorboards, felt a million miles away from the warm sunlight on the carpet den under a desk festooned with old lace and tablecloths. I would plant seeds wherever I lived, both real and in the hope of creating permanence. Walls were crammed with books from boot fairs and jumble sales, vintage jazz posters, and old linen sought to recreate the room I aspired to live in forever. Making a perfect space always felt like the cement that held the rest of life together. If you had been passing you might have been invited to one of my room re-arrangements for a cup of tea, and I think I may have painted every shared flat I ever lived in as a student in Edinburgh!.
Every house you ever live in begins in your mind, even briefly as your forever home. We must feel we are creating a space to eat, relax, sleep and nurture in. Some people get to keep rooted fairly quickly in life, and build a fairly strong foundation for their plot. For many others, no matter how much the interior shines, the castle becomes more prison than palace and a part of them knows that there might be change ahead. Patching over the cracks can only last so long. There is no other option but to uproot.
We start over. Re-sketching the perfect house from scratch. And, like a dog turning round and round in its bed before it gets comfy; we recreate our sanctuaries in home after home as many times as necessary until we find our place. Processing the journey, as healing and grounding are enabled through the brushstrokes on the wall, the folds in the laundry, the pots on the stove.
For us, finally getting to unpack our stored belongings, in arthritis – kinder weather, in peace and quiet, in the house we fell in love with, felt so blessed.
There was nothing in the way after everything being in the way. We were all together in our place. There was nature at the windows , and all the animals could finally roam free.
We had this wonderful blank canvas with potential oozing out of every corner. Our new plans were no longer waiting in the wings, they were right there on the x. We could decide exactly who we were and how we created the dream. It was a chance to breathe after all the worry.
But then the removal men arrived. Not once but twice, unloading all the stored possessions and furniture.
After so many set backs, letting ourselves believe it was all actually here wasn’t easy.
The horizon was always so far away.
Almost a year had gone past since we found the house, and several times it had disappeared out of reach . Now we were actually here, would anything else happen? As damp proofing jobs ended up with nails in pipes and unwanted water leaks, our fears edged closer . Finances leaked away with the flooding floors. I was struggling with the stairs. How could I get the washing out and up the steps? How on earth would this house ever be decorated and sorted out? Where do we even start? Could we afford to decorate? What on earth were all the plants called!
It was a bit overwhelming knowing where to start. We knew that time and a little perspective was everything.
Not only was it a monumental task to sort out and unpack without the physical strength and mobility I once had, it had also been such a long time since we had seen or needed any of our things and most of them felt like they belonged to someone else ! We were used to a small wardrobe, only what was needed day to day in the chalet. Although we had missed all our belongings, the space had opened up for focused living and now life had suddenly become a sprawling mass of objects that needed attention again.
Who was this person who had this stuff?
When you move house everyone wishes you well, which is lovely. One imagines being pictured relaxing and gently decorating whilst smiling and clinking gin glasses . Not so with two houses to merge, a colourful teenager, a menagerie and all you ever owned in a muddle in front of you (and behind you and underneath you).
Not knowing what kind of house we would find meant no order for packing boxes into specific rooms. And the climate is different here (hence the move) so some things feel more suited than others.The largest chunk of stuff will be books, which can’t be unpacked until the damp proofing work is dry and the rooms are redecorated and carpeted .
Of course it was going to take longer than five minutes to normalise how things felt in a new environment. But more than that, there was nesting and growing into the space to do first, brightening it up, cleaning away the cobwebs, airing the rooms, putting colour in its cheeks. Our homes not only help keep us warm and nurtured but serve as a backdrop to feeling creative and welcoming others in.
I came home to my thoughts in the soil.
Looking at how the garden was getting on, I breathed a bit slower. She was in no rush. She reminded me that there is hidden process you can’t control, some are slow and inevitable, some are done by instinct; by feeling the leaves and the soil and knowing what to do. I began clearing out the weeds, from the garden and my brain. I followed her lead.
I woke early and pottered before anyone else woke up, and marvelled at each new flower popping through the shrubs . I gave myself a little thinking time. . I realised there was another layer underneath the interior design thoughts. I felt guilty if I let myself feel happy here. Feeling safe to relax is difficult after trauma or stress. On your own with a small circus, and living in flux takes a long while to step out of and stop the momentum. It can be hard to unwind, hard to believe you deserve kindness or to stop moving for a minute . We find ourselves fighting old enemies when we are raw and tired, allowing imposter syndrome and anxiety in, and staying anything but hyper vigilant in case of imminent danger.
I listened to the sounds outside, ignoring the sounds in my head. The church bells rang. I listened to my body. It was very very tired . I unboxed parts of the past which I decided can stay there for now, and parts which can be celebrated here. I slept a lot . I listened to the old stone walls and the garden and what she was saying , not what I wanted to dive in and change. I listened to what wasn’t there . There was no big black dog behind us, nothing to run from and nothing to run towards. For the first time in thirty years.
Every day began to have a rhythm, beginning with animals waking before the alarm clock. My wonderful pockets of morning times, silent and still before the day woke up, enabling snippets of wall painting, snippets of drawing, letter writing, poem catching in the bath and catching the precious morning light in the garden.
I started to notice secrets unfolding in each overgrown border, grateful I had said no to the question, ‘Shall I just strim everything? ‘
Nature was showing us her established ways, this house has been waiting to be celebrated and nurtured. And we can all do with a bit of that from time to time, especially from ourselves!
When we arrive at our destination, we are so used to to travelling we forget how to slow down, forget to remember why we came on this journey in the first place. Having lived with an element of waiting, anticipating, of escaping, and of momentum; landing at last was bound to feel strange. Adrenalin had fuelled us, and resting was necessary punctuation in order to listen to what we need and have now.
Tending to the smaller and smaller ‘garden’ we were responsible for had become normal .
Suddenly it was expanding in all directions, everything thrown in the air , landing in a muddle with nowhere clear to get things straight. A little weeding, turning our faces to the sun and plenty of watering, and our roots could start to get strong again.
Going through one section of stuff at a time helped. I halved my clothes, not least because I had an entire room for them previously! Today I wore a pair of trousers I first bought to wear three years ago, in the first stage of our journey moving down South. too chilly to wear in Scotland, they have been packed and unpacked so many times, up and down the country but never worn. Now they have a drawer, they can start planning their itinarary.
Just have to get one last bit of wallpapering done first…
Feeling settled has happened slowly over the last few weeks through time, and routines, and rooms slowly unfolding, by each of finding our plot where we can grow best and not interfere with each other’s light. We, like plants get shell shock when we move; lose our bearings, feel misplaced and disorientated. unanchored and untethered to our routines, however meagre or transitory they have been. Like the plants in the garden, if we trust in natures cycles, even the most lifeless can bloom. We all need a littlle tlc
A little patience
And A lot of fertiliser xxx