Welcome to the Blog for March, 2020

News and Views on Ageing
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Tuesday

Day five of solitude March 31st, 2020
hens on path
Another cold morning but a beautiful sunrise over the Dart valley. This morning the hens had laid four eggs, could be that I missed one or two last evening or the ladies are getting busy. We have seven hens of which possibly three are actually laying and the others are in very happy retirement.

This morning I spent an hour coppicing hazel for bean poles while another of our group made wigwams so that they will be in place when the beans go out in May. Later in the morning I spent some time splitting and stacking logs, some of the wood was larch with a beautiful golden grain and piny resinous smell.

I was checking out how I’m feeling and have to say, at the moment, I am enjoying spending time alone and being quieter. It struck me quite recently that I tend to talk to much! I’m also aware of how fast time flies and yet each day is spacious and full of delightful ordinary happenings. On the way to put the hens to bed this evening I noticed how bright and luminous the primroses are at sunset. Every ordinary thing is so special!

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Monday Morning

Day four of solitude March 30th, 2020
veg garden
Awake before dawn and up at 6:30, the hens were reluctant to venture out into the cold morning air much preferring to huddle together on their perch. One egg.

Spent a couple of hours mowing grass around the top garden and around the grounds. Pushing the mower as it's little two-stroke engine does the work is great exerecise and a pleasure. All the cuttings get addded to the compost of which there is never enough. The garden looks somewhat tidier and will be more so when the bed edges have been trimmed.

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First Sunday in Solitude

Early morning peace March 29th, 2020
hens
From where I am there is an unreality about the current emergency, the birds sing, the flowers grow, leaves appear on the trees, the wind blows and the virus seems a very long way from here. For now.

I woke up this morning at silly o’clock to the stars shining through my window; 4:30 am and all still but for the wind in the trees – back to sleep. Coffee at 6:30 am and a news check before dressing and going out to feed the cats, let the hens out and give them their corn. A cold north easterly wind ensured that I was fully awake.

After a breakfast of porridge with banana, seeds and dried fruit I spent an hour splitting and stacking logs, it’s a bit like weightlifting combined with supermarket shelf filling when there’s only one irregular shaped product to stack.

We gave ourselves the weekend off so today is one of relaxing, reading and napping.

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A Typical Day in Solitude

Never really alone! March 28th, 2020
wood anemone
I wake up around 5:15am, oblute, make coffee and return to bed. Read the news on the tablet, I like to read the Guardian once a day at least in order to remind myself how lucky I am and to not take things for granted. At 6:30 I make breakfast and another coffee then, this week, I light the boiler and wheel-barrow logs to the boiler room. Next week my early morning task will be looking after the cats and hens. At 8:30 I Zoom in to the morning meditation and sharing from my room, usually we also discuss the day ahead.
From 9:30 we carry out various tasks for a couple of hours, last week we deep-cleaned all the bedrooms, the bathrooms and the drying room. Next week we will be working in the garden, together but at safe distance apart.

Lunch for the non-solitudians is at 1:00PM and I cook a light meal at 2:00PM. After lunch we are in our own time.

Around 6:00pm I light the boiler again. I cook my main meal of the day at 7:00PM and later meditate and/or listen to a teaching or join a sitting group via Zoom. Most evenings I find time to listen to music and I am usually in bed by 10:00, I read a novel untill 11:00pm and then sleep.

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Splendid Solitude

Reframing Self-isolation March 26th, 2020
snail on leaf, Dart Valley, Sharpham Estate, near Totnes
From tonight I go into splendid solitude as one our group goes to work in the NHS. Given my age, and despite being as fit as a fiddle, it is the responsible thing for me to do. Like a lot of people we will be using technology to hold us together and, weather permitting, will be working in the garden at safe distances as well having expanded sitting circles on the lawn. I will report on how my life of solitude progresses but I know that I am very lucky to be in the middle of over 500 acres of Devon countryside and have no need of the town.
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Dealing With Difficulties

Sometimes Thinking Does Not Help March 21st, 2020
bird of prey in clear blue sky
Dealing with difficulty and developing a sense of calm while what we assumed was reliable crumbles is fundamental to the practice of meditation. That doesn’t make it any the less scary but may stop us from panicking and over reacting in other ways. We humans are hard wired to imagine the worse case and in the past that hard wiring was an essential survival tool but for most of us that is not true today. If we can slow down and allow ourselves time we can moderate the ancient instinctive responses that come from deep within our brains.
We don’t have to be meditators to spot when we are off on a catastrophic fantasy or beginning to speed up unnecessarily. We can stop, and take some deep breaths and take our attention away from our excessive thinking and ground ourselves in awareness of our body breathing, our feet on the earth. We can calmly talk to ourselves in a kindly and soothing manner that engenders a caring attitude as we try to do the best that we can with the tools that we have right now. One useful technique for damping down those growing fears that threaten to engulf us is to ask the question, “Is it real?” and to coolly explore that question either with someone or alone, perhaps using a pencil and paper to jot down what is going on in the mind. Seeing the thoughts on paper may well help to sort them out.

These are difficult times for everyone particularly the elderly who, even if healthy, feel realistically vulnerable. It is important that we reach out to each other in any way that we can so that we may offer and receive support. One way that we can do that is through use of the internet. It seems to me that at last social media and other platforms are able to come into their own and be a social good for the many.

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On a Devon Hill

To the heart joy and grief are one, March 11th, 2020
Gentle hill, Dart Valley, Sharpham Estate, near Totnes
On this gentle hill I found my voice and have stood with the sheep around me singing my heart out for the first time. And it is here that I have let my grief flow through me and out into the valley.

Grief for all those things that just didn’t come to me, for the failed friendships and relationships, for neglect of those I should have cared for and for those who should have cared for me. Grief for family and heroes who have died. Grief for what could have been but never will. And grief for our home, the home of all living beings that we humans appear hell bent on destroying.

On this same hill I often stand and gaze out over the river valley and thank my lucky stars, thank the stones on the path that led me here to this place and time where I have begun to uncover who I have been since my beginning. So much joy and sadness held together in one heart.

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