Sit in my bucket

Yesterday in the middle of our government approved dog walk around the block, I saw something quite out of this world. My daughter had already raced off home, bored of the slow pace, and I was left watching the horizon.

I watched in awe, as ten, playful dolphins, danced and swirled around each other in a huge circle, leaping clear out of the water, time and time again. It was mesmerising. Yet I was alone to see it and my daughter had disappeared. Guess who had no camera that day too! In all the time we have been here, I had missed every sighting of every sea creature, every time!!

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In these magical moments, our eyes are our camera and we absorb each moment more intensely as it presents itself for us. We do this so that we can both remember it and tell someone else. As somebody who loves to take photos, it was all the more special to capture a rare and beautiful memory and savour it for the usual desperate scouring of the sea’s riches. Then my neighbour appeared, and socially distant, we stood together watching and oohing and ahhing. Somehow, an experience is more real when shared.

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Human beings need to share. For so many of us, there is thread of intimacy missing in our days right now, little shared experiences over cups of tea, a hug with a friend, knowing how people are getting on, planning local events, marking moments with others.

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And there will be people reading this, agreeing that some folk overshare their lives, their dramas and their intimate details, especially in times of internet tourism. It can be very difficult to work out who the real person is underneath layers of posts and ideals, designer personality traits and public expressions of extreme emoji filled emotion..

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We all act out of love or fear most of the time. And if someone is annoying you, think about what either you or they might be scared about. Extreme emotions are mirrors reflecting only our true selves. So we had better like who we see above the bathroom sink.

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The small daily creations we achieve must be marked and seen in some way. In recent weeks, our issue with schoolwork was magnified because there was nobody to show it to. A convoluted method of downloading 52 pieces of maths, english and art onto a memory stick, posting it to the teacher, was worth it for her feedback.

Because humans need to be seen, heard, celebrated, liked. The tiny precious moments that most people take for granted, all day every day in families and in relationships, are possibly harder to capture and share now. Especially if (like mine) your family aren’t online! Thank goodness for the daily gratitude and love from fur and feathers.

Perhaps right now you might be experiencing a little of this frustration. are you having amazing ideas, but have nobody to tell them to? Are you making delicious meals, but have nobody to eat them with? Is your inner critic making you uncertain about your daily choices? Now is the time to give it that voice a boot. It is thoroughly understandable to have extreme versions of your emotions right now. Feel them. Just don’t believe the ones that sound like your horrible old aunt that never liked you. Treat yourself like another person would treat you, a person that loves you like the sun shines out of your bahooky.

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Part of recording and sharing our photographs, is sharing the amazement and joy we feel . Instinctively as humans when something wonderful happens we crave a soul to bounce it off. If you are surrounded by family, mirroring each other’s experiences in a positive way, and sharing over the family whatsapp, you are very fortunate . It is very rare! Now, more than ever, our tribes are scattered, and our shared experiences are online, in letters, in conversations. I was quite touched that my mum said she would write in her diary, 500 miles away, that I saw dolphins. For the few minutes I was describing them, she saw them too.

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This situation is making us draw on self resilience and for some people, there isn’t anyone there. We have only the reserves we have bottled on sunny days. Keep opening those jars. It doesn’t ever run out.

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My friend Lorna is an inspiration to us all. Throughout a lonely lockdown, she has carried on baking for her own film nights, and has given herself the permission to still experience celebration, even though she is alone. Our shopping too is centered around food these days, and saving on petrol, choosing certain smaller food supermarkets, that feel safer, has enabled a restaurant menu at Liz and Leahs! One of the nicest things has been to share meals that would otherwise have been lost. Leah has become very creative in the kitchen with an egg- egg salad, french toast, scrambled eggs.. and her favourite lockdown thing she says is soup for lunch on cold days, at the table. We have even managed a couple of meals outside.

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My gratitude for our network has been enormous recently. We are very much alone here, a long way from family and long term friendships have been tested by distance and disability. We have an incredible online circle but as many of you will now understand, it isn’t quite the same as sitting on the sofa laughing at the tv. together. In recent weeks, this has been even harder on a very personal level.

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This week, after a short battle with cancer, we lost my stepfather Dave . For a few weeks before it happened, we knew what was coming, and we were a long way away. We had to watch from the side, while life did what life will do. A few people knew, but facebook doesn’t hug you. And when you and I and all the other parents Aunties, Uncles, grandparents out there are managing a daily survival routine, you don’t crumble, you can’t crumble. Even though you want to.

When the time came for him to be at peace, the distance from relatives got so much bigger. So many of you will be reading this and understanding the pain of separation from loved ones, in times of both joy and sorrow.

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When we are really sad, when life happens, it is essential to let your loved ones know you are there. Grief and sadness, flooding memories and feelings of pain and anger will course through at different times for each person. Nobody will know the exact right thing to say. Or when you’ll need it most. That’s ok. If you are feeling overwhelming sadness , tell someone this; that all you need is for them to sit in your bucket with you. When pain, or fear or any emotion which has gripped your brave heart is overpowering; you don’t need to be told how wonderful life is outside the bucket.

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You will come back to yourself soon enough. What you really need is someone in your bucket with you. Just being there in the water.

Lorna reminded me of those chads we used to draw in the 80s. peering over walls, peering out from under duvets, over buckets.

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Grief has to be sat in sometimes, to feel the loss of someone dear, and the pain of the unfairness of it all. People that love you do so for all your rollercoaster emotions, powerful, beautiful, funny, strange, colourful and they know that you already see the world beyond your bucket. And being under a cloud for a while will only make the rainbow brighter.

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Human beings need to be. It is a reflective time for us all, and we will have times of great sadness and great comfort. Don’t judge each other. The switch on your phone or the tv is there for a reason. Feel what is the right thing to do in your heart. And most importantly, don’t judge yourself.

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Too many others will do that for you! In recent months and weeks the money put aside from art classes (£5 A week!) and any sales; to build a space for helping others was taken from our kitchen. And the grass I had grown from seed into a lush green carpet for the fairy garden, has been sprayed by someone with weed killer. We have been tested. But we aren’t giving up on anything that we believe in. The abundance of creativity and hugs will just burst out some other way. We hope the person who does these things can see it might feel brave doing these things, but it took a lot more courage escaping our former life to build this one.

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We have carried on being and doing. Drawing, playing, watching the magnificence around us and waiting until such times as we can hug those we love.

For those of you who read this, consider yourself an essential part of our family. We always have space around our virtual table. Let’s hope it’s not too long until its a real one ! For those of you who commented on our facebook page this week, Thankyou. xx That meant a lot xx

From our hearts to yours, keep filling your buckets. Liz and Leah xx

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In the Zone..

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Sorry.. sorry.. sorry.. I keep hearing myself say in my head, as I am weeding a flower bed and dabbing at  a piece of a new painting simultaneously.. feeling the guilty pull of the list of replies I should be making to my dear ones …

I’ll be with you in a minute !!!!

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You aren’t ignored. I am ignoring The pull.

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Because, this is one of the very few weeks of the year where you can be in the zone and time and the weather is playing hard ball.

We recently spent a week with our dear friend in Spain. She and I, and the small person headed for water whenever we got the opportunity, as temperatures soared between 35 and 44! My lovely friend packed and unpacked the car with our beach clobber, and bravely transported me in the wheelchair to a water source in a different spot every day. We covered ourselves in health improving mud, trekked up a zoo path, whooshed around a moving river in a spa pool and lay like lilos when we got to the source..

It was a lovely break. Only a few friends are trusted at the helm of the chariot and I hope her back has recovered! Thank-you again for making all that we did possible. We often went to a pool where my daughter and other kids played . I was able to be in the water but I couldn’t move my joints so I couldn’t swim, however I was glad , oh so glad to be in that pool .

The bittersweet irony at the moment, is being so close to the joys around you but not being able to participate as fully as you might. In a strange way though, it makes spaces for little things you otherwise wouldn’t do. On holiday I read a great, life- affirming book whilst Leah swam, and made plans for projects, took photographs and absorbed all the laughter in the barmy sunshine.

We can either feel ‘plonked’ and act like a plonker or we can still be the same vibrant person under whatever changes our body is making. We can’t control that, but we can still exist in the cracks of our lives and accomplish more in a tiny gap between our obstacles.

You choose.

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Rebrand yourself as completely Fabulous

At this stage, with various procedures and diagnosies still hanging it can feel like I am camping in a different country, my body not knowing its own language. Small achievements are so enjoyable it is a joy to share them as we go.

Fabulous

And it got me thinking about this Summer place we find.

The magical window.

The bit where there is a sweet spot.

Gratitude sharpens your experiences and your eye for detail. Taking pleasure in what, to some can seem trivial or inconsequential.  

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Gratitude sharpens your experiences and your eye for detail. Taking pleasure in what, to some, can seem trivial or inconsequential.  

Being able to feel the moment, despite the pain or focusing on lack keeps us moving forward. And we can get there by letting it in and breathing quite a lot of other stuff out..

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Back in Spain….. At the top of the zoo hill there were tears (mine) (and a hot and stroppy ten yr old’s) and there was exhaustion, (all of us) A desperate craving for the end of day, a very cold g. and t. and a blast of cool night air.

Only when that came, and the air was slightly less oven like, and my kind friend suggested I sit down, my legs didn’t want to.

You see my sweet spot had arrived. The house was cool enough and now I had stuff to do. It was a little pocket in the day, to complete a few tasks, grab a drink, bath mini and me and potter until exhaustion proper kicked in. I had been at the mercy of others and a chair all day and I was me -ish.

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Lets go girls.. (or boys)

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The obstacle course got temporarily a bit easier once the sun got lower and this was the chance to feel useful on the planet. Squeezing as much into the magical window as possible, when you can, that makes you happy and fulfilled , keeps you going until the next carved out slot comes along and nobody knows when that might be .

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Everyone’s idea of what is perfect to relax with is vastly different. For some it may be a sun lounger by a large, noisy poolside, a spa day of treatments and a tequila sunrise . Yet after enforced exhaustion, wheelchair use, living on crutches, you want to make things, find things, be things, try things and get into the world.

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Everyone’s idea of what is perfect to relax with is vastly different. For some it may be a sun lounger by a large, noisy poolside, a spa day of treatments and a tequila sunrise . Yet after enforced exhaustion, wheelchair use, living on crutches, you want to make things, find things, be things, try things and get into the world.

Yesterday I was in the garden, crouched under the bushes , one leg poking out, listening to the birds and contemplating the miracle which is a garden. In under two years a crop of great things has blossomed and flourished . I had just found blackurrants perfectly hanging in little bunches .one of my hilarious neighbours nearly made me jump out of my skin as I was simply somewhere else. It was bliss

I am in the magical window, and it isn’t gong to last. The beautiful weather which lets the back door be open and the curtains sway in the breeze, the story tape playing while a long abandoned painting is finally completed . Trimming fairy gardens overgrown in the summer rain and finally clearing out junk squirrelled away all year by young and slightly young at heart hoarders …

There is a magical temperature which lets all this stuff happen. Not too hot that you resemble an air balloon, but warm enough to lubricate the rusty limbs for a few precious weeks

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And that’s why I know my true friends will understand why I am a little tardy with replies to messages and a bit vague here and there. This is the only time of year that a sore body can be outside pottering about so freely and with less time constraints too.

The Summer holidays began with an Enid Blyton Style camping excursion to the caravan in the garden, which enabled me obviously, to begin wafting in linen around the house whilst reading poetry to the cat..

I wish.

I watched everything on the t.v. planner with swear words in, ate hummus and talked to myself about sensible things like making a scarecrow and a pond for our one remaining goldfish, whom I feel very sorry for, having just lost his tank mate and who now spends his days swimming in his own doo dah.

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It lasted one night, but at least it was the whole night. And One has to learn to be less patient in completing creative endeavours because there isn’t endless energy, endless warm days and endless time. Getting in the zone is a sensory pleasure and is curtailed by a set of circumstances we don’t choose, but have to learn to get along with.

So we wake up, start a new day and we make again. At the weekend, a new pond! A fabulous homemade build which did in fact make our goldfish much happier: Recipe = ikea boxes + Neighbours saw+ pond liner+ duct tape+ determination+ earth+ alpine plants+ visit to builders merchants for cheap stones+ netting to ward off hungry seagulls .

I have been told, “oh but you make it look so easy”. It makes me laugh to think how lovely but how utterly misguided this is.

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Learning the rhythm of our mobility and how we adapt can free up little pockets of loveliness – your own recipe for tapping into some of that stuff on your hit list, while you can, when you can.

Getting things done..

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As an early bird; We are always up early anyway and both of us enjoy an hour or so of me- time in the morning to come round. Especially, like me, if your body needs to adjust, for meds to get to work etc. I love my mornings. Watching catch-up on tv and doing my writing, facebook, posts etc. My brain loves mornings but will be pretty rubbish past Eastenders O’clock.!

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Finding your not- so- sweet spot in the day- Perhaps ( and there is a possibility as there is a ?? in our family tree !!! ) I was from Mediterranean stock. Oh, two o’clock comes and I can just do with a siesta!! Either rest or reschedule then.. possibly for the whole winter…. .

You don’t know what is round the corner weather wise, health wise or relationship wise; so bloody hell– seize the day please !!!.

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Use the year, month, day, to your advantage and let your dear ones know you are alive but need to be in your zone while you can. From April to September you can find me in the undergrowth somewhere or deep in conversation between hanging out a shirt and feeding a chicken.

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Even in July, the tendrils of Autumn’s harsh winds are closer, and you feel you are on a train at full speed careering through the year without stopping at the stations. Looking out of the window and sharing your thoughts with your fellow passengers is an essential part of the journey. Our destination being another cycle of winter’s bite ahead, digging out the wooly socks again and stocking up on coal, enforced hibernation. So making the most of the outside time we have together is so important

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In these extremes, when our bodies are wonky all that normal stuff is doubly hard, we must seize the day, make hay while the sun shines. If we can walk, see, hug, hold a pen, plant a seed, make a paint mark, rub a dogs ear ; laugh with a friend, how lucky are we ?

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And it all feels so much better in the sunshine.

I have been busy in my magical window, sowing seeds in the garden, in creative ways only available while the studio and my hands are warm, the air is sparkly and new friends pop up over the fence all Summer! With one shoulder , one or two bones still ok and a will of iron, new projects are flourishing. Here is our entry for the Coldingham Scarecrow trail for Coldingham Priory;

Brother Benedict is a heavy thing! So lots of help has been received and appreciated . You can vote for any of your favourites at the Coldingham Gaa Sunday. Info on the Coldingham primary website.

And lastly for today..

Our new Mosaic path being made now from bits of old china, old bathroom tiles and small glass mosaic pieces. Just managed to get the glue dry before the heavens opened last night!! A hop skip and jump through the grass for soggy winter grass.

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How cool is this path? Although, yes, I can hear you say- if it was mine it would already have spots on!

Thank-you for being with us patiently and with continuing trust .  We are here, building something magical whilst still gazing up at the clouds.

With love and gratitude, Happy happy Summer xxx liz and the zoo xx