Emptifulness

I’m still feeling unwell.   This is frustrating because I’ve been trying to carry on with my ‘outside life’ of work and responsibilities, and keep getting knocked back from a persistent low grade fever and various respiratory ailments.

A couple of days ago I was gently tidying my studio and came across a Bach Flower Remedy which is Oak (Quercus Robur).

‘Aha!’ I seized on it and promptly took a dose, hoping to gain the strength of an English Oak.

The Oak person is one of ‘tremendous will power, courage, devotion to duty, strong powers of resistance, superhuman endurance, unbroken hope, and high ideals’.  They may feel frustrated and unhappy if illness or exhaustion mean they are forced to do less than they want.  So much is positive about the Oak person, but the negative side is the stubborn refusal to rest or sit back when the need for rest is obvious.

The Oak Flower Remedy is for those who are struggling and fighting strongly to get well . . . .  While still “strong as an oak” the individual will now meet obligations to work and to others with a balance that allows time for rest, rejuvenation, and pleasure.  This is one of the Bach Flower Remedies that is indicated during recovery from a long term illness. When the patient has grown weary of the routines of recovery and the dependencies of an illness, Oak will provide the power to persevere.

This chimes with my tendency to be ahead of where I am right now and the gift of this persistent illness can be to call me to come back in to the present moment.   So I have been very mindful about when I need to stop and have a cup of tea, take a nap or simply do nothing in particular.

Yesterday I woke up and watched the tree outside of our bedroom window, one of my favourite pastimes throughout the year.  It still is somewhat wintry outside and nice to be inside and snug.

The tree is winter-bare, but I can see tiny buds just beginning to swell all along the twigs and branches.

In this time of slowing down and being present to my body’s needs, I am being filled with the Presence in the moment.

Emptifulness, pen on paper, 2017.

 

Spring Greens

I’ve been enjoying fresh and vibrant greens these past few weeks.  I always forget  how much I love spring greens and then can’t get enough of them when March rolls around.  My friend who has an allotment gave me some kale and purple sprouting broccoli, including the leaves.

Delicious steamed and tossed with butter and lemon.

I’ve had a lingering chest infection for the past few weeks and felt that these wild nettles from the Exeter Farmer’s Market would give me some fresh energy and deep nourishment to make the transition back into good health and Springtime.

I made Nettle Soup!

Nettle Soup

  • Olive oil
  • Chopped onions
  • Potato and/or carrot, peeled and chopped
  • Wild nettles, only the leaves *
  • Chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Double cream to finish

Sweat the onion.  Add the nettle leaves and other vegetables.  Pour in the stock.  Simmer until the root vegetables are soft.  Puree in a blender or food processor. Season to taste.  When serving, stir in a spoonful of cream to make a pretty pattern

Delicious served hot or cold.

* Steam the nettles for about 2 minutes.  This will take the sting away and make it possible to pick through the leaves and remove the stems.

Secrets of the heart

In the past couple of weeks, daffodils have begun to blossom and today I noticed the first tiny green leaves appearing on bare branches.  The dark stillness of wintertime is beginning to brighten and quicken with new life.

When we were in California, my husband bought me a macro lens.   True to form, I didn’t begin using it right away.  He said ‘I know you’re going to take fabulous pictures with it.’    I am absolutely astonished at the details it captures.  I bought three bunches of tightly budded anemones yesterday.

They’re already beginning to open in the warmth of our home.

I love how flowers slowly blossom and open wide.  We each need nurturing space in which to grow and how lovely it is when we have someone patient and encouraging and loving to witness our unfolding.

The heart of an anemone reveals her secret

 

Baby needs a new pair of shoes

shoes

I find myself in the unique and interesting position of having a foot two different places, a foot in two different shoes, if you will, although neither fit my feet very well any longer.

In July, the EU membership referendum result shook me to the core. The country that I had chosen as ‘home’ for the past 18 years suddenly seemed an alien place to this American expat. In 2007, after living over here for 9 years, I definitively chose the UK over America. I have been an Anglophile since the age of 8 and I chose the place that seemed closer to my values and the way of life I wanted to lead – I also loved the closeness, in spirit and geography, to Europe. When I met my husband Steve in 2008, that sealed the deal. We have felt fortunate that we have had the choice to be in the UK, the US or even Europe, although we have been happily settled in our home on Dartmoor whilst we surveyed our options.

My October sojourn to California re-connected me to my West Coast roots. I came Home to myself in a deeper way, renewing bonds to places, family & friends and have felt much riper and grounded as a result. Steve had an amazing trip to one of the most beautiful places in the world, with a native tour guide.  We both had the question in our minds, ‘Could I/we see ourselves living here?’ The answer was ‘Yes, if that’s what we decide to do.’

I am so grateful that I went back before the election results. Then on November 9th, I awoke to the shock of an unthinkable Trump presidency. Now, at the end of the first awful week of the new administration, America no longer seems like the familiar, though distant place that it has occupied in my psyche. Curiously, it wasn’t as emotionally destabilizing to me as Brexit, I suppose because my current home and circle of friends is here.

My US passport which gives me permanent residence in the UK, is up for renewal this year. A passport is a travel document that certifies the identity and nationality of its holder for the purpose of international travel. A passport is a document certifying identity and nationality. Citizenship, nationality, identity, national identity, statelessness. . . . . .

These days I ponder. Where do I belong? Where do I fit in? How can I be a citizen, a member, of a place that no longer reflects who I am?

The answers to these questions invite more questions. The most important thing to do now, is to keep both of my feet firmly on the ground, keep my mind and eyes wide open and listen to where my heart beckons. I’m a citizen of the world, a world without borders and walls and us-es and thems.

Where is that place? Inside of me. When I am with certain other like minded, openhearted people, that place becomes bigger, inhabited by a fledgling populace. These people are friends, family and colleagues in ‘real life’.  They are also part of my online sorority and fraternity, which is based in cyberspace.

We need to make a new country, an alternative world based on tolerance, equality and diversity; care for the environment; filled with art and creativity and all of the other good things that humanity is capable of. Time to kick off those old shoes that no longer fit, that pinch our feet and aren’t fit to take us on any journeys, anywhere.

We don’t need those old shoes.

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January Dawn

On Tuesday morning, I forgot my book, so gazed out the window of the 7:30 bus winding down from Dartmoor into Exeter.  I took the images I saw into the darkroom of my Soul and melded them with words. I borrowed a pen from the lady at the cafe and painted a picture of the morning.

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January Dawn

A smudge of sun rises through the mist
to bathe the morning in pearlescence.

Proud winter trees stand over spiky frosted fields,
holding white twigged branches aloft.
They soften and undulate into the brumous distance.
Blackbirds quarrel in the hedgerows.

High above
an azure sky holds a waning sickle,
poised to reap another day.

– Melinda Schwakhofer, 2017

In spirit

What a weekend this was.

Friday was an important anniversary, which I always mark.  January 20, 1980 is the date that my mother, Nell Rose Schwakhofer née Martin died from cancer. The easiness or difficulty of this day depends on where I am in my inner world and can be impacted by the Zeitgeist.

This year, I found myself wondering what her response would be to the US presidential election and today’s inauguration. I didn’t have the privilege of continuing my relationship with her into my late teens and into adulthood, but I have many memories of her response to the world.

When I was about 5 and carelessly repeated derogatory slang words to describe African American and Hispanic kids, she gently and firmly corrected me.

When my big sister, at age 17, became a feminist, wore jeans to her high school graduation and started calling herself ‘Ms’, my mom supported her.

My mother Nell was opposed to California Governor Ronald Reagan for his violent crackdown on student protesters at UC, Berkeley, for his ‘welfare reforms’ which punished the poorest people, for his anti-environmental policies, ‘Once you’ve seen one redwood tree, you’ve seen ’em all’. and for his contradictory ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-capital punishment’ stance.

In 1973, when she had gone back to college (at the age of 50) she came home wearing a black armband in support of the fledgling American Indian Rights Movement.

She was a supporter of NPR and public television.

When she became too unwell to work, our family had to rely on Medicare (which the incoming administration wants to slash) to pay for her end of life care.

I am so proud of who she was and the values that she carried out into the world,and instilled in me.

As I do every year on this date, I went out and bought some roses to arrange next to a photograph I have of my Mom.

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I also planted some narcissi bulbs into some Victorian terracotta pots I have in a pretty French wire basket.  I felt good to put some living things into some earth, in anticipation of their growing and blossoming.

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Saturday January 21st was a day filled with women and men, across the world, marching for equality, diversity, social justice, inclusion and many other things dear to many hearts.

My husband and I had intended to drive up to Bristol and join in, but that morning, I awoke needing the comfort and security of Home.  I was really torn, but in the end, I paid attention to what I needed.  I made a donation to Planned Parenthood because women’s reproductive rights is one of the things that I would march for.

I was there in Spirit, along with the millions of women and men worldwide who are standing up for a positive way forward.  I felt my mother’s spirit too, very close by.