On the Otherside of the Dark Side …

That’s one way of approaching November. It’s always dark, but this year darker than ever as it’s drizzled or rained non stop since I got back and it’s been terribly grey.

Today, however, the sun tried to break through and there were even smudges of pink in the late afternoon sky.

This sight cheered me too

It’s my favourite place in town. Our city library. I didn’t go in, as I was on my way to the book store to buy a 2019 diary, but the golden glow of the glass building and the silhouette of the cat on the library wall helped lift my spirits.

And then I went to my favourite cafe and touched base with my bookclub friends there.

It’s the small things that make a real difference especially at this time of year!

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Posted in this & that, Turku, urban

Living more simply

One of the biggest reverse culture shocks so far post Camino is realising how much stuff I have -much if which I barely use!

I walked for almost two months, carrying all I needed on my back (and even then didn’t actually need the first aid kit -thank goodness- or the extra pair of shorts! Now back home I agonised over what to wear for work today … too much to choose from (and some I’ve shrunk out of anyway!).

So operation declutter : reduce, recycle is underway. I haven’t actually tackled my wardrobe yet … but I’ve worked through three junk drawers (reduced what was in there by about a third and sorted and organised what I kept) … it’s a great start.

What I like about this chart is it makes decluttering and tidying easier because it’s set down as doable stages. Well some of it is! There’s no way I can purge my closet in one go, but by taking the ‘one drawer’ ‘one cabinet’ ‘one shelf’ approach it becomes not only doable, but for me very therapeutic!

I’m focusing on the living areas and our bedroom first, as darling daughter did the fridge and the pantry while I was on the Camino, and our kitchen cabinets were purged earlier this year … the really big job will be my office, but I’ll probably postpone doing that until the new year …unless everything is easier and goes much quicker than I anticipate.

Hubby and I did the bike shed in the summer (with help from our offspring when we loaded new logs for this winter).

I’d really like to have fewer possession, less stuff and live a more simplistic life. But that’s somehow much harder than it sounds … but there are small adjustments that I can make and stick to. Not stockpiling food is one, reducing toiletries is another. I use very little in the way of cosmetics and smellies and I’m trying to get out the message to family and friends that I appreciate experiences over gifts. Come with me to a museum or art gallery, Take me for a coffee; come to the cinema and discuss the film over a drink; me at a park run; invite yourself over to help walk Tinka and the gals, … etc etc all these things make me very happy, and are much much better than buying me stuff. It’s time with people I appreciate the most!

Posted in at home, food for thought, reflections after the Camino | 1 Comment

Fearless or Fear Less ?

I have an amazingly artistic friend, Minna, who,amongst other things over the years, has helped me in terms of shifting my own poor imagine of “not being creative” to recognising I am creative in different ways.

That shift in my thinking has been enormous … in terms of both embracing my love of crafting words and taking photographs and recognising both are media that I use to paint life albeit on a different canvas to artists who paint and sketch!

I’ve been back in Finland for almost a week now, and I’m missing the Camino a lot. I’m missing the walking, I’m missing the ease of meeting new people, I’m missing the variety of scenes and scenery, and I’m missing the sunshine! But I’m handling it quite well. Having processed a lot of this in advance has meant that I’ve been forearmed … but I had forgotten how tired the November darkness makes me! I could easily go to be at 7:30 or 8 every night and sleep for at least 12 hours! Ha. It’s this time of year I identify most with bears and can understand their desire to hibernate!

On Friday this week, for the first time since I’ve come home, I went out. I can thank the aforementioned Minna foe the invitation. She was holding a new moon soirée at a mutual friend’s cafe … I love Minna Twice’s voice, her vocals are beautiful and the lyrics always touch me … so it wasn’t as hard as it might have been to get myself dressed up and go out. I’m glad I did.

Without knowing (or at least without being conscious of it) Minna’s play list refused to come together and instead songs insisted on presenting themselves! What hit me was that almost all of the early songs spoke of stars and starlight … and I was instantly transported back to the Mesetas …to those endless vast skies full of the brightest stars that went on for every, and the full moon that illuminated my way and made me pirouette so many times I felt giddy!

Then Minna sang a song (new to me) that stopped me in my tracks. She called it Fearless or Fear Less (take your pick!) …but I only heard the invitation to hold my head high and stretch my imagination.

What was amazing was that I felt (rather than observed) everyone there collectively sit up a bit straighter, hold their heads a bit higher, and indeed think big or as Minna put it stretch our imaginations.

We don’t always see instant results to our responses, but I felt something change “in the heaven-lies” … a kind of empowerment as we dared fear less!

Stretch out your imagination

As far as you can

Hold your head up high,

Keep an eye on the sky

Hold your head up high and listen

The lyrics themselves are very powerful … in part because of the reminder to LISTEN : to listen to one’s inner voice, and to listen to the other person!

Part of the post Camino journey for me is about finding what the priest I met from Taiwan, Fr James / Jacob, called the Camino of Life. To do that I need to carve our space to listen well.

Posted in art, food for thought, poetry, reflections after the Camino, this & that, writings

Learning to see colour in the dark

November is dark in Finland. I knew this, I hadn’t forgotten it, but I had forgotten how grey that can make everything. It’s as if the darkness bleaches out all the colour. That’s what depression does too, even if it’s not so deep as to make everything completely black it makes the world seem monochrome!

Some of my favourite pictures are black and white … and I particularly like those where the artist pulls out one thing and colours it. The iconic scenes from London the red double decker on Westminster bridge, or the red postbox by Hyde Park Corner are just fabulous.

I also particularly love this heart-breaking scene in Schindler’s List where Spielberg uses the same technique .

So today I’ve been applying that way of zooming in on detail in my own life. There is colour out there. It’s almost obscured by the darkness … but if I look for it I can find it here and there!

Earlier this week I bought some fat balls for our bird feeder. I spied a sock thing full of seeds that worked out a lot cheaper too so I invested in that. There are still red berries on our daughter’s graduation tree and I hoped if I got the bird food out now, the birds would still come. And they have …

Another thing that brings colour to my life are our crazy pack of goldens. We have five at the moment as our daughter and her puppy are still here, so it’s especially crazy at the moment.

Tinka – my bonus dog – is the most colourful of the five!

I learnt on the Camino that it’s not only what I see that matters … using my other senses can add to my sense of well being. And right now our daughter has pizza dough making in the bread machine. She reinstituted a family tradition of “pizza perjantai” while I was on the Camino and hubby was keen not to let that drop now I’m home … and our pizzas will be full of colour too!

Posted in food for thought, goldens, reflections after the Camino, this & that, Turku, urban | 2 Comments

Things I learnt about myself on the Camino

  • I don’t need tea to kick start my day!

In actual fact I didn’t drink tea throughout the Camino and I haven’t had a cup since I got back. I don’t miss it, but old habits die hard and yesterday morning I noticed I switched on the kettle without thinking

  • One cup of nice coffee a day is usually enough, preferably after I’ve walked a bit.

Here back home I have enjoyed my cuppa after the first dogwalk of the day. I haven’t needed a second cup yet …though occasionally on the Camino it was a two cup day!

  • Five minutes in the shower is a long time and more than enough!

My first night on the Camino was at Orisson. There we were given a token for the shower …and because water is precious our time was limited to 5 minutes. I learnt then that my showers are usually much quicker than that and that 5 minutes is actually a long time. I always turn off the water when I lather up etc …

  • I only need to wash my hair once a week with shampoo

On the Camino I only had a tiny ‘travel size’ shampoo with me. It lasted the whole Camino. I often rinsed my hair under the shower without shampoo. I’m not a lover of ‘products’ and my hair didn’t suffer from having no conditioner throughout the time I was away. Here in Finland I mostly wash my hair at the pool and only after swimming (rather than aquajogging) so the shampoo once a week regime can continue … though the water here is different pH so I’ll have to see how this pans out.

  • My feet do benefit from a little love and attention

When I came home from the Camino my feet (apart from the dry patches where the heel blisters had been) were in good condition. There were no callouses or rough spots. Today I noticed a few have started to develop, so a little Vaseline daily is actually good for my feet! The rest of my body doesn’t usually need anything at all.

  • I miss the sunshine

That’s not news to me or anyone who knows me, but it’s worth reflecting on. Sunshine makes me feel good, dark, grey skies do not. I suffer from SAD (seasonal depression) because of the lack of decent light and I feel the lack of warmth on my skin.

I like meeting new people

One of the wonderful things about the Camino was the ease with which anyone could strike up a conversation with another. I had some deep conversations with some pilgrims, and some fun banter with others. It was also ok to walk in step and in silence with others at times. I miss the smiles and the ‘buen camino’s!

  • I am very ok with my own company.

I don’t know how much of the Camino I walked alone. I’d estimate at least a third of the way, perhaps more. One of the discoveries was that I really like walking alone. It gives me time to think and process, and see the beauty I see with my own senses! Don’t get me wrong …I loved the starry skies and full moon of the Mesetas and the glorious sunrises even when I happened to be with others, but the sound of the day waking was always more profound when I was walking alone.

  • I am much more of an outdoor person than I realised

That’s been an interesting discovery too!

Posted in food for thought, reflections after the Camino, this & that

While we wait in line

I saw what follows on Facebook … it’s about leaving this world, and what we do with the time we have.

In some ways it echoes what I learnt, felt and experienced on the Camino. I was never the first pilgrim and I was never the last … simply one in a long line of pilgrims working out the Camino for myself.

I made choices for myself every minute of every day, many were instinctive but others were thought out and reasoned. My choices impacted others, though most of the time I wasn’t privy to how that worked out … but it was a lesson, nonetheless.

Have a look at what follows, and like me, allow yourself to reflect on one thing … what kind of footprint or waves do you want to make while you wait in the line?

Every minute someone leaves this world behind.

We are all in “the line” without knowing it.

We never know how many people are before us.

We can not move to the back of the line.

We can not step out of the line.

We can not avoid the line.

So while we wait in line –

Make moments count.

Make priorities.

Make the time.

Make your gifts known.

Make a nobody feel like a somebody.

Make your voice heard.

Make the small things big.

Make someone smile.

Make the change.

Make love.

Make up.

Make peace.

Make sure to tell your people they are loved.

Make sure to have no regrets.

Make sure you are ready.

Posted in Camino (Spain), food for thought, Post Camino

Disoriented …

Finns don’t smile in public or greet one another (at least at this time of year). That was the first observation back home today! The exception are dog owners … they at least acknowledged me, and a few even smiled! When I smiled at other people they scowled as if I was the crazy one! Grin!

November is dark … but today wasn’t as dark as I feared, though it got dark very early this afternoon and that caught me by surprise!

Our house isn’t quite as warm and cosy as I remembered, but that’s because it’s not that cold outside yet so the winter heating hasn’t quite kicked in! The temperature will drop to zero on Thursday.

Seven weeks of walking resulted in no weight lost (or gained) though I do feel trimmer. Walking also isn’t ideal prep for running, as I found out today too … I felt like I was almost back to square one – not quite run 1 week 1 of C25K but close! – time to get back into the running groove that kept the SAD at bay last year and helped get me prepared (stamina and fitness wise) for the Camino … my hope is that it will be good this winter too, though now I’ve found out I can run I definitely prefer running outdoors to pounding on the treadmill. Tomorrow I’ll brave the outdoors I think – before the ice descends!

The best thing so far about being back in Finland was the sauna at the pool! Gloriously hot and steamy and a quiet space to sit and think. Bliss!

I’m deliberately laying low for a few days to adjust being back, and zealously guarding my diary too! One of the things I’ve learnt on the Camino is that I need to do less and need more time alone to think, reflect and write.

Oh and I feel a declutter coming on too!

Posted in food for thought, Post Camino, reflections after the Camino | 2 Comments