Friday, March 25, 2011

Our Enchanted Woods

On a holiday my family took to the lake one year when I was just a young child, I recall I once briefly met a gnome. As I hurriedly wandered along the path that meandered for what felt endlessly around the entire waters edge, I stumbled upon this stout wee fellow slumped upon a toadstool. He wasn't very big, yet neither was I, and I'm not sure what it was he smoked form his pipe but he seemed rather a jovial chap. I was in no particular hurry, although was intent to move as fast as my little legs would carry and beyond the protective sight of my parents watchful eyes. There was however, a certainty in my somewhat limited stride that I would surely come across something magical beneath those trees, but only if I were to discover it alone. As I scurried along I could hear the water lightly lap against the lakes shore and there were the melodious tones of what faintly sounded like a mythical flute being played by fairies in the distance. My eyes were peeled to the track and at the surrounding trees, well at least at the base of the trees, as at the time my line of sight sat at only about two feet high from the ground. There was a memorable sense of whimsical adventure running through my veins that day, and it is that same sense of adventure that I remember so vividly that still thrives in the essence of who I am to this day.

 As I came around a slight bend in the trail there he sat, quite content with his spot in the shade and his pipe in his grasp smoldering away. I stopped, stood there silently mesmerized and we both smiled largely at one another. Intrigue lingered in his eyes, as if it were as exciting for him to see me as it was that I was seeing him. I parted my mouth slightly preparing to speak, and he removed the slender wooden tip of his pipe from his own. But before either of us had a chance to utter a word the sound of approaching footsteps and my kid sister humming as she skipped down the path broke the silence on which we had met. He quickly, though a little sleepily, got up form his stool and disappeared behind a tree. Within moments I was greeted by the other members of my family wandering the track behind me. As they approached my father took my hand and we continued along the path. I did glance back briefly, but he was nowhere to be seen.

I've never stopped searching for gnomes, and elves, and other magical beings amongst the trees of forests I visit. Although, I now have a companion to share with me my quest; to seek out the magic in the woods.

We've discovered a forest not far from our home and we regularly wander its otherwise unfrequented pathways.

 Many things have we found of beauty. Like houses built by birds,

and the delightfully disorganised forest floor,

 little stools for little elven bottoms,

the sculpted creations of the trees,

and the stage on which the morning light performs.

We've even found where forgetful little bugs have left their jackets hanging on branches.

But, although there is undoubtedly magic amongst this woods, we're as yet to have met another gnome.

Though I'm certain if we keep learning the language of the trees, how to whisper to the breeze, and build a trust up with the leaves... then every inch of our enchanted woods will come to life, and the forest will tell us her secrets.

And maybe, just maybe, two little boys will get the chance to befriend a gnome.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Oh, for the love of laundry.

The more I search out amongst this life for the simplicity upon which I wish to build MY life, the more I come to realise the extent to which modern conveniences deprive us of the artful nature of many everyday tasks as they were performed in the past. Not to mention how much we now take them for granted. And, as equally beautiful as were the ways in which those days now long passed were lived, so too were the tools that were used to perform such daily household undertakings. So as I search daily for ways to create a more meaningful existence, I also set about fossicking and foraging through op-shops and second-hand stores for those items now aged, and vintage, and full of history and character that will always remind me that in fact I still have hands, and hands have much ability and purpose that seems to be preoccupied in this modern world.

Okay, so I still employ the services of my electric washing machine and not of my washboard, but not that many years ago there simply was little if any other choice. What can now be done with the push of a few buttons, used to be a whole days performance, yet even with modern convenience some of us still can't seem to find the time. 

If you consider the amount of time that we spend each day wearing clothes, drying our bodies with towels, washing the grubby faces of our children with cloths, or snuggled up between blankets and sheets to sleep, then linens and fabrics have a fairly important role in our lives; And, so to then does laundering it. 

I must admit I do enjoy the luxury of having a machine that washes my clothes for me, as opposed to having to make a trip to the river every time a basket of dirty clothes needs washing. But then again, just like the sweetness of dry sheets freshly plucked from a clothesline in the open breeze, I imagine the effort of a good old washing day down in the river would feel rather rewarding.

Yet either way, the task itself can be far more meaningful and rewarding when the importance of what washing is can be considered, the beauty in it discovered, and the effort sought - to get physical and get your hands dirty, or in this case clean. Gently caring for the cloths, and clothes, and fabrics that in turn provide us comfort and protection, rather than seeing it simply as a monotonous chore.

Equally important is what we use to wash our clothes. Since I was very little I have had to live with the often irritation of scratchy skin, but having for the past few years begun using plant and mineral based washing powders, I have aided the resolution of a potentially lifelong discomfort. It also helps to live a healthy and balanced life, but every little part of life makes up the whole. I also have the peace of mind in knowing that what is discarded back into the earth is of as least detriment as possible.

The good thing about living with such enthusiasm is that regardless of the task at hand kids seem to enjoy getting involved with anything you do, it seems to simply not matter when it's fun. If everyday that I wash our clothes my little man sees a joy in me as I do, and he can share in that, then I don't doubt that he may also discover this love for laundry.

Being outside in the breeze with your toes in the grass and breathing in deeply - its delightfully serene and calming with a real childlike enjoyment to it, and why should it have to be any other way. Life is meant to be enjoyed, filled with simple pleasures, like floating between sheets drying on a line, Or eating left-over birthday cake in your very own make-shift tent on the side of a hill...

...And reading aloud stories to the passing breeze of giants, and elves, and devious little woodland animals causing mischief in an enchanted woods a few forests away from here...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Seeds We Sow

As our magnificent summer days gradually draw down to a close, I find a gratitude for the springs of hope found and the rather effervescent effects these past months have had on our simply being. Each day still brings a comforting warmth to our adventures along riverside, upon seashore or amongst our secluded magical forest, and the evening light still lingers about longer than it will once the inevitably approaching Autumny-Winter nights arrive, although, there is a noticeable shortening, if only by moments each day.

I am also rather pleased that I chose to set aside my sewing machine, my needles and treads, my pencils, and all of my other creatively crafty ventures (just for the time being) to utilise every moment possible we’ve been offered out beneath the sky spent floating upon lightly summer breezes, getting our fingers deep amongst the soil, and in further exploration of the great unknown beyond our big back garden. All of this has been substantial and symbolic in the strengthening of how we are to live life. But, it has been the process of creating our own rather productive vegetable garden that has really changed something in both myself and my no longer six year old boy, but as I write, whilst he sleeps, he’s in transition to awaken tomorrow as seven.

Ideally, a healthy garden starts with good soil, but occasionally we’re not so fortunate. Sometimes there is the need to nurture; to condition the soil which would otherwise only cause the plants stress and lack the goodness to produce strong and healthy vegetables, and herbs, and flowers. And then there are the seeds that we sow into that soil, that bring about colour and growth and life to otherwise bare earth left simply only with the potential for great things. I quite like the sentiment in such lessons both for gardening, and for parenting, and just in life for that matter; for it is the seeds we sow in our children that become the garden of their lives. So a few months ago when we first mustered some productivity out of the intention to start a garden, had begun building its structure and tilled and gently tended to the soil, we gathered ourselves some seeds. But their was one in particular that seemed extra full of potential......

A little pair of hands took that seed and placed it beneath the surface of the earth collected into a little pot by a window, and patiently we waited... Three days later that one seed sprouted two tiny little leaves and they began to stretch themselves out to bask in the warmth of the sun.

Two leaves grew, and then another, and another...

After a number of weeks, and many more leaves had grown as well as numerous courgettes which were picked and eaten, one particular courgette began to grow bigger than the rest, until it eventually became a marrow. 

Apparently once it had matured it would be full of seeds that we could harvest. So just like any other day, we set about to work through our list of daily tasks of living, and on this day it was to go in search of these seeds.

Farewell to Marrow, I'll miss you.

There were many lessons to be taught and learned through this journey. For a little boy one day off arriving at seven, many of these came to fruition when he saw the dozens of seeds inside a marrow he had grown from just one. There were lessons of patience and perseverance and the rewards of practicing such virtues. Lessons of nurturing and care, of germinating seeds and growing them into plants let alone into vegetables that can be harvested, cooked and eaten. Lessons of sustainability and development, and the ongoing process of composting our waste; of resourcefulness and creativity, of courage and adventure. And, of the cycle of life, in that all of what we had accomplished had started with one simple idea and one small seed. That one seed, went on to reproduce more seeds than we would need to grow courgettes to feed the whole neighbourhood next summer, and that first lingering thought has stemmed into a vast array of exciting ideas to nourish our minds as we pursue our ideals; to live resourcefully, sustainably, creatively and endlessly abundant with Life.

It's all in the seeds that we sow.