The Joy of Summer: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Here down in the southern hemisphere, we are in the last days of summer.   Three months of this season has passed far too quickly and many are lamenting that it hasn’t been a normal one.   Indeed, all the country over, there have been many ups and downs with the weather – lots and lots of rain and cool days, so much so, that we’ve had to crank up the fireplace on many occasions for warmth.   But we have had some beautiful summer days – shorts weather – and the garden, though slow to start, is now flourishing with potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini (courgettes), kale, silverbeet, beans, carrots, and a wide range of herbs in abundance.

My pal Lisa and I ran our second yoga/wellness workshop in January which was titled The Joy of Summer.  It was an incredibly magical day with thirteen women from the Peninsula surrounds.   Lisa spoke about the divine — how the divine is always with us and can flow through us and help inform our asanas;  we OM’d;  I spoke about my passion for food and did a beautiful blessing of our meal;  we gathered in circle and sent prayers into the world for any loved one who needed healing (and just about everyone had someone to mention); we passed around my personally made affirmation cards and everyone picked a card for the day;  we stretched and twisted and got into our ‘wild thing’ (name of a pose).   Joy and smiles exuded from all.   I was proud.

In early February, I attended a two-day yoga workshop given by Mark Whitwell.  He is the teacher of several local yoga teachers and I thought it would be good for me to brush up on some yoga skills.  Called Heart of Yoga, Mark teaches from a perspective of the heart as our centre and how using mindful deep breath work when doing asanas (poses) connects us to the most important organ in our body – the heart as the seat of consciousness.  Mark says that if you can commit to a 7-minute daily practice using his technique, he promises you will experience such deep intimacy with yourself and your life that it will radiate outwards and begin to inform your experiences of the external world in a different way.    I have to say that after 20 years practicing yoga and studying with different teachers, I actually felt different after using Mark’s techniques and I am now incorporating this into my Monday yoga class with the Wainui community.

I’ve also been cultivating my artistic side and as a Christmas present to myself, I signed up for a one-year online mixed media class with U.K. based artist, Tamara LaPorte.   Called LifeBook2017, we receive a weekly lesson throughout the year from 24 different teachers.   I’m a bit behind and have only completed four lessons which have been both fun and challenging.   I am definitely upping my skills.   Below are photos of some of the pieces, all done on 11” x 18” watercolour paper (the idea is that at the end of the year, these will all be bound into a book, hence Lifebook) and one canvas piece that I worked on with my Flora Bowley-inspired style.   My current Lifebook lesson makes use of a photo of oneself which is transferred onto the paper and then we will embellish and turn into a piece called The Song of Me.   All I can say is that it is very confronting and strange to be working on one’s own face!    I’ve also been working on making prayer flags using paints and fabric and am pretty pleased with how these are developing.

And to finish off my summer, Bruce & I spent a week at the top of the north island where the weather is warmer and one can actually get into the sea for a swim.   We spent five glorious days in Golden Bay/Takaka with our friend Kat in her house truck (a new experience for us) and then two days in Nelson with friends Hudson & Dawn.  Wearing skimpy clothes, swimming almost daily, enjoying warm nights – hmmm, I got my summer holiday!

And while I paint a lovely picture above about my life, it would be unfair to only acknowledge the good because the bad and the ugly are always lurking around trying to get my attention.   Sometimes it’s a manifestation of the mind that creates internal chaos; sometimes external events are actually chaotic and it takes a calm, strong, centered mind to navigate the murky waters.

I experienced a whole lot of both types of chaos this summer:   a new acquaintance/friend of ours passed away from suicide over the Christmas holidays;  another close friend witnessed a fatal car crash;  Nina (our dog) had to be rushed to the vet to extract a painful barbed grass seed in her ear;  I sprained my calf muscle while mowing which left me immobile for a few days and now five weeks later, I’m suffering from joint pain in many parts of my body and am seeing a physiotherapist for help.    I can’t actually do as much physical work outside which causes me anxiety as I watch the weeds grow and can’t keep on top of everything.

The experience of my injury and subsequent on-going pain has had wider repercussions as it’s impacted my mental well-being and has caused me to investigate with Bruce whether we should stay at Birdsong.  Is the property too difficult for us to manage?  What happens as we age and become less able to cope with our terrain?  How do we make it work?  These are all good questions to explore and when we recently travelled on our summer holiday up north to where the weather is warmer and the grass looked greener, I put myself and Bruce through a serious emotional whip around.    I looked at real estate ads, I talked with various friends about the communities, and we read the local papers to get a feel for local issues.

I went through terrible angst trying to figure out what to do.  Tears came flowing through.  I experienced pain in my heart as I thought about giving up Birdsong and our dream and having to start again somewhere new.     I felt a lot of inner turmoil and conflict.   This state of angst and turmoil also seems to be reflective of the world at large – of course it is because we are all connected in the giant web of life.   What I see happening in the United States with the new administration causing much grief to many is being played out on personal levels all the world over.   I am hearing story after story of people I know being confronted with some serious stuff (illness, cancer, marital break ups) that is making them question or alter their own personal paradigms.    I recognize that we’re experiencing a cyclic pattern that we’ve navigated and ridden before.    Though some rocky roads may be ahead, we have the fortitude, strength, wisdom and stamina to adapt to change – whether we move or not, something else has to happen.

So what do we do?   Pause.  Wait.  Tune in and observe how we feel.    We take baby steps forward to gather information that may help inform our decision making process.   We ground down and look at our beautiful home, our amazing abundant Birdsong property and all our friendships and express gratitude for what we have here.   And we go back to the breath, connect to our hearts, and try to tap in to that inner joy.