Saturday, 1 June 2019

When you get to where you wanted to be

It's twenty years ago now that our lives were comprehensively trashed and blown apart into fragments. You have to keep your nerve, don't you, in such circumstances, lose no time and remember that Jesus said, "Gather up the fragments that remain so that nothing may be lost." So we did that, we gathered them up carefully and did our damage limitation exercises and kept our head and put all our resources to rebuilding. And on the way other waves came in and smashed down the fragile new — for instance, I remarried and found a home but was widowed (so also lost that home too) in short order.

But we still kept our nerve and held together as a tribe, we stayed close and helped each other up into new beginnings.  And just this morning, I am rejoicing. Read on for the things making me happy today.

I am so happy and proud about the women my children have grown into. Today, the two whose house I and my husband share have make record earnings — as much on working as freelance artists as they'd have earned with a really good job; but doing what they love according to the timetable they set. I'm not sure if you know what a massive achievement that is. They have become indispensable to their main place of work as letter-cutters in a monumental masonry, because their work is of such excellent and beautiful quality. The other three of my children are also doing so well — one is making her way in the world by putting together a whole patchwork occupation, starting not with "what job will someone give me?" but with "who am I, where do I want to be, and who do I want for my companions on the journey?" Better questions, IMO. Of the other two, one works both as a musician in theatrical and concert performances (solo as a harpist and in ensembles playing brass — mainly trombone) and in a responsible administrative post in a university. And then there's Buzzfloyd, who is doing brilliantly home-educating her children — they have kept their softness and eagerness, the innocence of their youth, even in these harsh times. Her children are like flowers (but rather noisy and active). Not only that, but she is just the best preacher, and a druid, a writer, a musician. In fact all my children are musicians and I am blown away by the joyful and glorious sound they make when they all play together. It's fab.

This morning:

But it doesn't stop with my children. Having had my nose to the trail pursing health my whole life, the electronic revolution brought the internet along with all the information I've needed to understand the basis of health and how to repair it (see the work of Natasha Campbell McBride, David Perlmutter, Gary Taubes, William Davis, Robert Lustig, Gerald Green and Charlotte Gerson, if you are interested). I am more well now than I've been since childhood – both mentally and physically; and not so long since I was in a very low place and really struggling.

Then there's the influence of minimalism, which truly is a kind of super-power all of its own. I can live happily on a very small income, in a very small space, with all the time I need to write and live at the tempo of happiness. It was a long, long journey into simplicity, but worthwhile. Having travelled into wardrobe experiments that included Plain dress and saris, I finally landed on a ten-hanger principle that leaves me with all the clothes I need to feel comfortably and presentably dressed every day in all four seasons without exceeding the storage space available in my just under 7" x 9" accommodation. 

One area of expansion has been a movement back to paper (as opposed to electronic) books for my reference reading, partly to make lending possible, partly to cut down screen time, and partly to make it easier to dodge about in the book checking and looking things up. Even so, most of my books are on Kindle.

But one of the greatest delights of my life, which I want to show you, is our garden. It fills my heart to overflowing. We have worked away at our vision for turning it into somewhere to relax and enjoy that would at the same time feed us and also be a welcoming space for pollinators and birds and wild animals. 

We moved into this house in November 2009. By November 2013 we'd made some changes, divided the garden with a fence, repaired the garden walls, laid a foundation for Komorebi and built Tony's woodworking shop:

By January 2014 Komorebi was in place:

Then we did this: 

I have no words to tell you how happy this makes me. Together we've made it through. I love our way of living, in a shared home — of course it is not always easy, of course we have to work at it and approach it with humility and sensitivity, of course we have to keep our possessions to an absolute minimum and carefully consider the schedules, boundaries and preferences of the others we live with, relinquishing the luxury of having things all our own way. But that, too is treasure.

Here's our home:

Our corvid totem:

(with added bee-intention; and now we have our own swarm):

Where we dry our clothes in wet weather:

Of course, I know life cannot be all plain sailing, roses every day. I know I and my husband will grow old and there will be aspects of that hard to bear. I know my children will encounter difficulties and experience struggles. But I also see it really is possible, on modest resources, to overcome adversity, to make new beginnings, to find paths of health and make wise choices that flower into beauty and contentment. I am so grateful for my life today. There has never been a time when I was so content. And I am so grateful for the kindness shown to me personally, and for the work of people I will never know (to create the internet where I could learn, to tell me about minimalism and simplicity, to research and experiment on building health, to give advice about managing finance and good diet). I know myself blessed beyond measure, and I give thanks. 


greta said...

bless you, pen, i am so delighted for you! you sound happy and content in your simple life. there is no greater gift. you've given so much joy to all of us here in this on-line community, plus all the folks who have read your books, so we are rejoicing with you and for you. blessed be!

Pen Wilcock said...



Jen Liminal Luminous said...

beautiful Pen, thank you for sharing this

The Rev. Susan Creighton said...

Ahh, Pen, and what a blessing you are to me and many others. Although I confess to a twinge of envy for your garden--using a walker now, I have to depend on others to mow and trim the ferns, although the numerous cedar, Douglas Fir, and other trees I planted when I moved to my Anchorhold now form a living cloister, populated by squirrels, and many birds--entertainment through the windows for me and the cats! I doubt that I will ever reach your degree of 'simple living', but I have been paring down my clothes and other belongings significantly, and gathering bags and bags of old class notes, sermons, and manuscripts to be sent for shredding. It does indeed make one's soul feel a bit lighter! It's all about what Jesus said to the Rich Young Ruler, isn't it? "Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor. Then come, follow Me."

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Jen — waving! x

Susan — I love imagining your living cloister, and in your book I so enjoyed the descriptions of the labyrinth you made, the outdoor sacred places with trees already there or of your own planting. That takes vision, I think. What a wonderful thing, now that you can no longer do those things, to know that while you could do them, you did. The cattle, the horses, the dogs, the sea and hills and creeks, the pines on the heights and the open spaces — they will all have passed into the landscape of your soul. May you be blessed, and may your sorting and sifting go well — paperwork has its own astonishing capacity to accumulate, as I well know!

Anonymous said...

Well now, overcoming adversity! This post really speaks to me.
Two days ago our home was made uninhabitable because of a "significant" fire in the centre of our home. No-one was hurt, although our dear dog is suffering from the trauma. The stench is truly awful. The smoke damage was worse than the actual fire. My husband is sleeping in a local Travel Lodge and Archie Bichon and I are staying at my son's house on the sofa while the insurance company is trying to find suitable accommodation:
For two disabled people and their dog.
In Cornwall.
In the busy season.
For several weeks.
However, Father God has given us his peace and although it's physically painful for us to cope with the practical issues, we are on the receiving end of His assurance.
We feel blessed in the face of this adversity by Father's presence. He is keeping us from despair.
At a women's church meeting this morning I was able to calmly and cheerfully thank all those people who stepped in to help us right away, and also for the sympathy messages.
I don't know where we'll be this time next week, but we are totally assured that God is in control. :)
Kay in Cornwall

GerriHultgren said...

You've really made a life of beauty,comfort and simplicity...something for all of us to strive for. I am so happy for you,I know raising 5 children is no easy task even in the best of circumstances. You have every reason to be proud of them! I always enjoy your home/wardrobe/garden pictures :)

Pen Wilcock said...

Kay — oh my goodness! I'm so glad you were not hurt and that your son has room for you while other accommodation is found! Once you are through this difficult time, may your home feel even more comfortable and welcoming and beautiful than ever before. xx

Gerri — Thank you! I love the photos of friends' lives/homes/faces/clothes too!

Rebecca said...

Simply sane, I pronounce!
Your garden is truly a spot of beauty.
Interesting to hear your return to a bit of "paper". I can simply not bear to part with books, currently. They are family!
Clothes? I'm almost down to 10 hangers. Not quite.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Rebecca — something I love about books is when I lie in bed or sit in my chair and look at the books on the shelves (or even when I'm not looking at them as such but they are within sight)it reminds me of the contents and perspective of those texts.

Anekha said...

Well, you know you really have a knack for thinking along the lines and expressing so sagely and coherently a vague notion I have been pondering. For me, I am about to pack and move (finally) into a home all of my own. I am finally living in a town I love, that has reached around me and embraced me as I am. I have always struggled to connect easily with people and join groups to serve others/community. I was always too much or not enough and could not comfortably change or fit into the box or labels others came up with. But now, I have been wholeheartedly embraced by a whole community as I am, and met and befriended so many beautiful souls in only a year. And here, in this blessed sincere humble little village I am appreciated for the things I value. Kindness, holding place with people, being there, seeing people as they truly are, just being interested in peoples stories, sharing tea and meals. It feels like outside the boundaries of this town nobody thought these things mattered. Except of course in your blog Pen! Even in my life in a faith community, it was not long before they wanted to mould me into something else. Suddenly the person God made me was not good enough for God? It was a relief to step a way from ideologies of righteousness and faith and just sit in the quiet solitude of belief. It all had got in the way of God.
I have reflected deeply recently on all the struggle and pain and dissappointment and the exhaustion of failing and trying so so hard. I wanted to trust that I had tried hard, but God had other plans for me, and now I can see this was true. I am grateful God has finally allowed me to cross paths with someone who was kind and willing to sell us her house at an generous price ( in the OZ property boom no less) and now we can feel safe and make our home a place of light and generosity and sharing as we always wanted. It only took us 10 years and a lot of soul-searching. I honestly think god was just waiting for me to find the courage to be myself and to say "who do I want to be?" i struggled with the career money job thing, because it made no sense to my heart. I am now confident I can just focus on living an honest sincere day and the rest will continue to fall into place.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hurrah! Well done, Anekha! That sounds like progress indeed, everything you say — how exciting! May your move go smoothly and the life you are entering be blessed. May you be happy and peaceful and contented. Good move!

anekha said...

thanks! our new little house needs some love and attention. I am reading about slow living and wondering how it would work with art deco. and looking forward to planting a garden and getting chickens.

Pen Wilcock said...

It'll be lovely! 🤗