Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Thort bats

Living aloft in my skyship
Watching the blue from my star-gazy pie
Is it the clouds that are sailing along
Or am I?

I love living in the Garret.

I’ve been busy busy busy these last few days with no mind left over to blog, whirling around on a thinkabout concentrating ferociously.

A chance came to me.  It is not longing that reveals our heart’s desire, but opportunity.

Since forever I have yearned to live in a small hut in a quiet place, close to the living earth, with nature just outside the door.  No electricity, rainwater from the roof not city water from tubes.  No wires and connecting pipes winding round the unseen underneaths connecting it as tight as death to all the Mammon systems.  No TV.  No housephone.  Just rain and sun, fire and earth, the smell of the dust and the grass and the wildflowers, the sound of the wind and the birds.

And at the weekend the Badger said I could have his shed – his special shed where his carpentry things are and the garden tools.  The family said that would be OK.  Alice and Hebe would make room for his woodbench in their studio.  And I was overjoyed.  It was exactly what I have wanted.  For a day I walked in contentment.  And then reality set in.

It would make a little space between the Badger and me – a little lonely isolating space.  Not good in a marriage.  The Badger would come home to the Garret and the things that signal I am alive and well would not be there.  Even if when he is home I slept there at night with him, I would have my place and he would have his place – nowhere in the world would be our place any more. 

Two workbenches a stone-banker and a ceramics kiln would not fit into the studio comfortably even if you took all the tools and etceteras out and didn’t bother trying to go in there yourself.  Plus Alice and Hebe are the quietest take-up-the-smallest-space people on God’s earth, where the Badger is the noisiest person I have ever met.  He can play our silent spacious home like a kettle-drum.  Can you imagine them trying to work at the same time in the same small studio?  Yes?  Then you are born to write fiction: go ahead.

Alice’s work as a stained glass maker is taking off.  Does she need a carpenter airlifting down into the small world of her imaginative space?  Possibly not.

And the garden tools?  And the buckets and pots of things to kill slugs and things to paint walls and things to feed flowers?  They would go where exactly?  Racked onto the plain white walls of the studio? Stacked into the understairs cupboard with the vacuum cleaner and the ladder and the broom and the box of tools and the iron and everything else that fills it up already.  Nah-ah.

As an idea, as a generosity, this was a gift to me more welcome (by a long way) and more precious than a ring set with diamonds, rubies and pearls.  I have always loved my family.  I loved them extra for saying I could have this wonderful thing.  But I could also see it would chuck an asteroid into the little planet we have just spent three years establishing.  Way is not given, as the Quakers say. Or time is not yet.  I will carry on watching for the kairos.

But it set my mind in a whirl, a whole flight of question marks took off like bats at dusk from the hidden eaves of my thinkabout, which creaked and groaned and began to turn, going faster and faster until it nearly threw me off.

And through the blur I saw with clear sight that the answer is the same answer it always is.  Simplify.  Divest.  Keep pushing on. 

If I can become really simple – like St Francis, like Jesus, it will not matter where I am, the simplicity will gather about me like light and emanate from me like a fragrance.

Are there possessions I am still clinging to that I don’t need?  Sure there are.  Am I disciplined yet in what I eat?  I’m thinking about zero-packaging, local, organic, vegan, alkalising not acidizing, sugar-free, compassionate, earth-friendly, from small local shops?  Er . . . no.  Or more precisely – hahaha!  A long way to go and a history of scrapes and bruises from falling off the wagon every time we turn a corner.  Have I made the most space for silence and solitude? No.  Are my words always necessary, true and kind?  Sadly, not.  Am I faithful and conscientious in always using rainwater not citywater, in composting all body wastes?   Mostly but not 100%.   Have I applied the brakes to spending money?    W-e-e-e-l-l-l-l . . .  kinda.  I think I need new brake pads.  There are still minor clothes adjustments in establishing a plain and modest wardrobe that is not head-turning anachronistic re-enactment get-ups but a collection of invisibility suiting so I can move through the world as unseen as a rat along the foot of the wall in the shadows at dusk.  But at least, I have hurled overboard almost all cosmetics and toiletries.  Essential oils, cider vinegar and bicarb are my friends.

So you can see I have a ways to go before I am even at the foothills of the quiet mountain.

What I am lacking is not a hut but the tremendous gift of self-discipline.  What I wanted is to go where appliances and plumbing are not, so I don’t have to make the continual effort of making the choice, making the choice – the hard choice against the shortcuts that are shredding Mother Earth.  Renouncing was never my strong point.

But I glimpsed, as I whirled round on my thinkabout with my thoughtbats diving and dipping and fluttering madly through twilights and nights, that if I can build my poustinia in my heart, and clad it with habit energy, then I shall be solid as a mountain.  I shall have begun.

Keep walking, pilgrim.


365 366 Day 143 – Tuesday May 22nd  

Ah – what a good find was this!  A soft warm waterfall cardigan from East – reduced, ladies and gentlemen, from £85 to £20!  I bought it when I was freezing cold in freezing cold Oxford, meeting Mary at the Randolph for morning coffee.  I had come up from the much warmer South Coast in The Wrong Clothes (I cannot tell you how often this has happened to me).  I was mauve, I was goose-pimply, I was almost hypothermic – but this was the Randolph and I needed to look passing tidy if not as elegant as others (certainly not as elegant as Mary – being American, her sartorial chic reaches English  royal family standards – she is as beautiful and well-groomed as a model!) So I dived into East and rushed to the sale section at the back and dug out a merino tunic and WARM cardi.  Phew!  Much better!  I rolled up my thin top with the three-quarter sleeves and stowed it in my bag, making a mental note to keep it for the summer.  But this cardi is a goodbye as well as a good buy.  Once reunited with my usual snuggly warms, the need for it evaporated.

365 366 Day 142 – Monday May 21st  

This is representative of a herd of lipsticks cluttering up my life and now dispensed with.  Lest I hit a crisis of confidence I have retained one or two.  I did have, here in my 365 366 photo archive several days running with either a lipstick or a pot of bronzer/blusher; but reviewing the archive this struck me as boring in the extreme, and as the year has rolled on my chuck-out has not (as I feared it would) dwindled in material and run dry.  Not a bit of it, it’s got wilder and wilder and the things flung overboard have increased in size and number as time has gone on.  So I have deleted a few lipsticks and replaced with a greater variety of flung spume.

365 366 Day 141 – Sunday May 20th

 Like this, for example, which replaced in the archive a Bourjois lipgloss with a rather revolting toffee flavour.  I mean, I did chuck the lipgloss out, I just think you will have got the point from the lipstick.
Anyway, this was (clearly) my address book.  I still know your name and where you live (if I ever did), but you are stored electronically now.
Something strange happened to that photo.  Why is it in two sections?

365 366 Day 140 – Saturday May 19th

What’s this?  Oh, God bless you, a couple of Edwardian lace fichus I bought in desperation on eBay while still struggling with headcovering.  What a mistresspiece of dainty craftswomanship and how utterly, irritatingly un-simple and unnecessary.  A plain cap, a graceful tichel, fair enough – but away with the strings and the fringes, away with the lace!  For me personally, that is.  I mean, if you like lace, you have it!  Don't let the religious police snatch your ribbons or behead your statuettes!


Julie B. said...

You are a singular woman, Ember. And your family as well! May whatever garret/caravan/hut/shed/poustinia you settle in be blanketed with God's peace... xxoo

Oh, and "I was mauve" -- perfectly said.

Phil Wood said...

All of which reminds me, line by delightful line, why your blog is such a pleasure. As our little church seems to have become a people of the journey I appreciated your mention of the Quaker phrase, 'Way is not given'. It is a kind of fidelity to the road to recognize times and place where we must wait for the way ahead.

Sherry said...

I can feel your pain, Pen. Fly like a bird, plummet like a rock and somewhere in the middle level off. As you know I have wanted my space for a long time, too, but I didn't want to seperate myself from my husband either. Not a good thing.

I have also wondered if the work would be worth the benefit. I am afraid that I would just hybernate in my own space and that just won't work.

Maybe you could use the space during the day when Mr. Badger is off at work?

Anonymous said...

LACE! Oooooooo....

Ember said...

Hello friends!

Hello Julie B! I am thinking of you, with your world almost all in boxes, and those container lorries in the driveway filling up! May your house-move be blessed and the result be happy xx

Phil ! Hi! How goes the writing? Yes - as the Tao says: "In action, watch the timing."

Sherry - we have to know ourselves, don't we? Finding our steps in the dance. x

Debs - :0) Lace! If any more fripperies come my way, I shall surely know where to send them!! x

Pilgrim said...

I read your books and want to live in a monastery.

Wimmera said...

maybe it's time to go walkabout

Warm regards

Ember said...

Pilgrim - I'm so glad you enjoyed them and they caught your imagination! :0)

Wimmera - you speak my mind, friend. I have concluded myself that walking is moving up the priority list. Now I have spent so much time clearing away things and events, I am free to do that, too! x

Anonymous said...


A beautiful and thoughtful post; I likewise have found myself nodding at, and understanding deeply the Quaker turn of phrase 'way is not given', for I long for much of what you have, but state in life (with a significant disability and older husban two decades my senior, living in the crowded city) limits my options. I have opined from time to time the near impossibility for persons with a wide range of significant disabilities to live the life you have outlined here, to be gently reminded that for many of us, little steps are no less legitimate than the complete 'off grid' option.

I am likewise drawn to plain, and living in a high-Muslim part of my city where sisters in full niqab are not uncommon, moving with measured beauty as they mediate and moderate their relationships within the public sphere, can easily wear 'The Kings Daughters' without too much ado, and with careful selection, can carry it off; i have had a 'pearlie' soul since my teens, and have danced to the beat of a different drum. Love TKD and the ministry of those amazing women... considering my nation does not have a manufacturing industry for clothing, by and large, I know I'm choosing fair-made items and have made them last. On saying this, I understand the face of plainness has many facets and support you concerning the 'encounter suit' that best fits your own calling.

I too am drawn to the monastic life. God forbid my circumstances change, I would sign on in a heartbeat, as I walk the Marounite path, following 'Rafka's road' as a 'convert' from a mixed history of Seventh Day Adventism (of the last generation theology, historic variety) and several years in Calvinistic Evangelical Anglicanism...truly found Christ under the Cedar tree and was lovingly received into my community last year though i am still somewhat of an oddity; there are only a handful of belief-motivated Anglo converts to this rite.

May you be richly and wonderfully blessed,


Hawthorne said...

Tired of 'making the choice, making the choice'.... Yes, I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes it's just so easy to give in and stop swimming against the flow - maybe we need a day to catch our breath before going on again.

And 'bruises from falling off the wagon' - love it! Bless you Ember, my lovely x x

Ember said...

Hello, friends :0) Good to see you! xx

Pidge said...

Many thanks for the beautiful book that has arrived safely. A proper letter is on its way to you. I look forward to reading it and am sure that it will be an antidote to The God Delusion which I need to read for my course. Garrets are lovely, I write from mine with the swallows circling outside. They nest in Tom's shed and dive bomb the dogs when they dare to investigate. Their fledglings perch every year on the aerial a couple of feet from my attic window. Once one even flew in and out again and sometimes they sit on the skylight. Garrets are the next best thing to sleeping outdoors, you can lie in bed surrounded by stars. There are no atheists in garrets.

Ember said...

Hi Pidge - I wasn't quite sure if you meant this to be published here, but I so loved what you wrote about garrets that I thought everyone else would like to read it too. x

Anonymous said...

Yay...I know it goes against the whole decluttering theme but I do feel a girl can never have enough fripperies :-D

Ember said...