Instinct and timing….

The Lakes are stunning and yesterday unfolded in many unexpected ways.

The coach was an hour and half late in picking us up at the start point and a regular driver left his warm bed to stand in for a colleague that had got confused with his rota. I feel this threw a lot of our group off kilter.

The scenery is breath-taking and with a light dusting of snow everywhere, it had a magical quality about it.

I chose a gentle walk and there were fourteen of us who set off on this one. The rest of our group split up into other groups ranging from those with the highest summits in view, to those who ambled about the shops and had a roast lunch in their sights. It stayed below freezing all day and we negotiated frozen puddles and went past frozen waterfalls, as it snowed on and off. The wind chill was a lot lower than freezing, but we were all togged up and stayed warm, as long as we kept moving.

About halfway up the first hill ascent a voice came into my head saying ‘Double back and find the shoppers and a hot lunch Jane’. I ignored the voice, telling myself that I had set out to walk and walk I would. I asked our walk leader how much further we were going to climb and he replied ‘Just five more minutes Jane’.

Half an hour later we crested the top of the peak and I took the photograph above. As Lake Windermere appeared as a large puddle in the distance I surmised that we had climbed more than the promised 600ft. My fellow walkers confirmed it was at least double that.

Our group started to ask our leader how many more ‘ascents’ there were on the walk. We were promised just one and it was about half what we had just accomplished. For those that know me well I do try and come at things in a light way. Within minutes we were facing another steep accent. I asked what this was called and he replied ‘It’s an undulation Jane’. ‘I would call this a hill.’ I assured him. Undulation my backside, that was as steep as anything we had previously faced and whilst climbing it I twisted a muscle in my groin. The pain was instant and increased with each further step.

I felt that our leader’s interpretation of time, height and terminology was different from mine and some of the other group members. I took a deep breath and caught up with him and let him talk. It turns out that he used to lead groups of teenagers on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. All started to become clearer and I explained that I was injured and needed to know exactly what was ahead of us in time, ascent and scale of difficulty. He was unclear on details and explained that as a Yorkshireman, unless he had a limb hanging off, his Mum had always told him to get on with it. I replied that I rarely made a fuss and needed the facts, so that rather than being jollied along, at 58 years old I could make my own decisions. I know my limits and I was in trouble. Also, the last thing I wanted to do was hold the group up, because each time we paused we all got chilled instantly.

It is one of nature’s laws that water rests at the lowest point, so as we rounded the lee of the summit we were on, this view of Grasmere was before us.

It became apparent that we were headed to the water down below and then climbing the next hill to follow the track along. A few of us asked if the track we were headed for was on a level and we were assured it was. It wasn’t. Having managed to go down and back up again I stood at the bottom of yet another ascent on the track, which was rocky, icy and treacherous. My courage dipped. My left leg was screaming in pain and with tears in my eyes I looked up at our leader and asked if this was the last ascent, because I wanted to turn back to the main road down below. He assured me it was and crab-like I made my way up. At this point another one of our group lost the plot. She openly accused him of lying and started to verbally rant as she walked. I focussed on putting one foot in front of the other and thought ‘Think Jane’. No irony there at all.

He paused to wait for me and I had an idea. ‘Can I look at your map please?’ He happily showed me the map and I made a decision. ‘Please show me exactly where we are?’ He did. ‘That track ahead will take me back to the main road and that is where I am heading. I will find my way back to the town from there.’ I left no room for him to disagree. ‘What is the name of the car park that the coach is parked in?’ I asked. He didn’t know and started to bluff and bluster on directions. Our verbally venting group member then slipped in ‘loopy bananas’ mode at speed and opted to come with me. He offered me his mobile number, but I took the number of another long standing group member instead.

We walked down to the main road and I gently reassured her that she could trust me and I would get us back. As we got to the bottom there was a space carved out of the stone wall and several people were standing nearby. ‘I bet that’s a bus stop’ I said ‘and there must be a bus due’. We checked the route on the notice board and sure enough a few minutes later a bus turned up heading through Ambleside. It went slightly awry at this point, because the bus driver was not local and he thought he knew where our coach was, but it turned out that he didn’t. About half an hour later, there we were two women not at their best, deposited at an unknown bus stop and still not near our coach. Ambleside is layered up a hill with a one way system. My colleague was still venting verbally, as I am sure this was the only thing keeping her going through her frightened state. I gently reassured her and said ‘Walk with me, I promise I will get us back to the coach.’ I remembered the road number from the leader’s map and a sign had flashed by on the bus, so we headed for that. Turning left at the sign we walked down the road and as we reached the bottom nothing appeared familiar. I saw a couple walking with their dog and baby and I asked them. Fortunately, among all the tourists and walkers there that day, they were local. I described how the car park had looked to the ‘Dad’ and amidst all the noise of my colleague sounding off, his eyes locked onto mine and he gave me directions. We set off again and it was at this point that I lied. ‘I can see the coach.’ I told her and I kept saying it. As we finally went down a little lane, what I was saying became true. We changed out of our muddy boots and boarded the coach.

As the rest of the group started to come back on board and asked after us I said the same thing, again and again. ‘I have met some lovely people today and The Lakes are as beautiful as I had hoped. Unfortunately, I chose a walk that was beyond my capabilities.’ My colleague seated a good few rows behind me was still sounding off loudly with a different perspective.

I will return to The Lakes, just in a different way next time.


Does it need measuring or labelling?

So many times in life I feel the words ‘Does it need measuring?’ ‘Does that need labelling?’ and I ask that of my clients too. Labelling and measuring put such pressure on things, when they simply are as they are.

It has been pouring with rain a lot this week and one day I was listening to a client pouring his heart out over the phone, because his love did not feel the same way about him. He has been turning himself inside out trying to make it into the picture he yearns for. Right in the middle of his turmoil I glanced out through the rain soaked window and saw a tiny little sailboat, doggedly making her way out to the Irish Sea. The only reason I spotted her through the deluge was due to her primrose yellow sails. I found myself saying to him ‘What if it is what it is? What if you stop trying to measure, label and mould it into something else. What happens if you just let it be?’ The line went quiet for a while and he replied ‘But what am I then Jane?’ ‘You are still you, you are still whole.’ I said softly.

On Sunday I am heading off to walk in The Lake District with a local group that I have found. It’s an area I have always wanted to explore and this lovely bunch of intrepid souls have a coach and travel to the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Derbyshire Peaks, Snowdonia and North Wales. Marvellous. I found myself in a well known camping and outdoor gear store this week making sure that I would be suitably clad for these adventures. The young lad who served me has such a lovely, open way with him that I found myself sharing some of my vulnerabilities. Yes, I was able to ask him the question on whether the waterproof jacket would leave me free to walk, yet cover my ample backside, amongst the other concerns I had. We had built up such a rapport by the time we got back to the till, that other customers joined in and shared many things. We all parted by shaking hands and wishing each other well with our endeavours.

Then yesterday while I was doing my grocery shopping, a Mum was pushing a baby in her pram through the veggie section. We paused and I looked at her little one cuddling a bunny tucked under her chin, with her arm around him. I chatted softly to her and she smiled up at me. So peaceful and contented. Her Mum said ‘You know it doesn’t have to be the bunny. Whatever toy I give her as we leave the house, she loves them and looks after them in the same way.’

The rift valley….

We are hard wired for attachment; people, places, situations, memories, things. Yet everything in life is impermanent.

How we handle this rift valley within and juggle needs for ‘the known’, safety, warmth, joy and comfort, shapes us.

And life throws in sparks.

I stood in falling snow and ice this week and looked at an obvious challenge with my car. It wasn’t the weather that brought in a sense of vulnerability, it was a change in my life that has left me with no immediate person to turn to mechanically. I navigated my way home and sent messages to various friends along the lines of ‘Can anyone recommend a local garage?’

The results were inconclusive, so I did my own research and found one up the road. The chap who owns it answered his own phone, which I found comforting. I got the car there at first light the next day and it was a hive of activity. Clean, organised, many men working and cars coming and going already, which was also comforting.

I explained that I had checked all the fluid levels were OK and then my bonnet wouldn’t close.

The banter was flowing as freely as their breath on the crisp air.

‘Did you manage to open the bonnet by yourself, love?’

‘Do you know where the washer bottle is?’

‘Have you put anti-freeze in?’

Closely followed by ‘You do know what anti-freeze is?’

‘Are you sure that you know where the bonnet is?’

All this delivered in the few minutes it took for one of the chaps to take my car keys, grab some tools and the ever ready WD40 and disappear outside to investigate.

I had remained silent throughout and when we were alone I turned to the garage owner and said one word (it’s OK Mum, it’s not rude);


I listened to his reply explaining that they had so many rude customers, mainly women, and they got fed-up with it.

I nodded to him, drew my vulnerability around me and stayed silent. The chap returned and told me he’d fixed it and refused to take any money.

‘Thank you so much’ was all I could manage, as I glanced at all the men working hard in the cold and had an idea.

I went back yesterday morning and being a Saturday it was much quieter. The shutters were down and as I went in through the side door the only chap there was the mechanic who had mended my car. He looked wary as he came out from underneath a jacked-up truck, wiping his hands on a cloth.

‘Can I help you?’

‘I am so grateful for your help and kindness yesterday. You did more than mend my bonnet catch. I have baked you a cake to say ‘Thank you’.’

He cradled it in his hands and looked at me for a few seconds, transforming before my eyes. All his defences and banter fell away, as he lit up.

‘Ohh, thank you so much. I will tuck it away so all the boys can share it on Monday. What is it?’

‘Moist fruit cake made from my Mum’s recipe.’

We beamed at each other.

Just being…

The bulbs I planted up in my Granny’s tea set went over and I replaced them at the weekend with pale pink primroses; the label said Woodland Vale. I walked into the bathroom yesterday and there a delicate scent in the air and they looked happy in their space.

It has been very windy, with snow falling recently and I have been sitting sharing with clients over the phone, watching the sea gulls riding the thermals. At times it’s been so blustery out there that they have been suspended in the sky. A right royal squabble between them drew me from sleep early this morning and as I opened the curtains they took off to ride the wind again.

Lately I have been finding my flow in our local fitness centre. A bouncy playlist is vital for the treadmill and other muscle building equipment, as I have discovered it’s not the place to meditate. Yoga was a tad unsettling as I found myself in an advanced class and the youthful teacher came over halfway through and asked ‘Have you got an injury dear?’ Words did not fail me and I left her class early. My newfound gym buddies suggested I try other yoga teachers, as there are four classes running there. I am still pondering on that one. Aqua Zumba is so much fun, it’s by far and away my favourite activity so far.

I have also discovered new creative workshops locally and am happily signing up to take part in those.

It’s been a tough time as sharp change blew through. I have just let myself be and nurtured a loving space to be in. Sparks are starting to appear and it’s proving interesting to follow them and explore. ❤

Holding our loving space….

In my sifting and sorting this week I have re-discovered my Granny’s tea set in a box. I have started to use her cups and I am going to plant her teapot, sugar bowl and jug up with spring plants. I let my Mum (her daughter) know about my discovery and then we went on to talk about family treasures in my space. The embroidered cloths that Mum has passed my way, Granny’s sewing basket that I use nearly every day, the bookcase that my Dad gifted his Mum when he got his first paycheck is with me too, holding my beloved books. Creative treasures that Emily, my daughter, has made over the years are here too, with a set of her paintings alongside a creative table I have put together. Everything in one place and accessible, so that I can create in a spark and not have to hunt for anything, or set anything out. Marvellous.

Each circle in each day brings me back to a calm centre within, where I am held in a loving space.

Sharp winds of change have blown through life lately and I have found peace in this calm centre. It’s not about denial of upset, because as feelings rise up like waves, I acknowledge them and then ‘park’ them. In turning my mind back to the nurture of creativity, and what soothes naturally, the temptation to layer up against the pain doesn’t happen. I flow with accepting that it is how it is.

So many times in my work and life I meet souls layered up and sheltering behind their shields. Sometimes so layered up that they have managed to convince themselves that they don’t need nurture at all. So many painful stories from the past playing out as if they are still happening now.

We are like vessels that fill up and whatever we hold inside gives us the view on how we experience life.

I spend my working days helping others to unpack and gift themselves some room within to breathe and explore new perspectives and options. Recently, a client said ‘I am sorry Jane, I can’t tell you what you have just said, but your voice is so calm I’m falling asleep.’ I burst out laughing, which made him chuckle…laughter and calm in his inner space. ❤

Moodling in the circles of life….

This weekend, after two years ‘away’, my tools, personal treasures and creative bits and bobs circle their way back to land in my ‘happy bubble’ home.

I have promised to gift myself time to sift, sort and feel my way with each piece. The old loo at the end of my little hallway is not used and makes a grand storehouse. On deciding what to keep and what to let go of, maybe some new creative sparks will emerge, maybe they won’t. It is what it is in this moment.

There is an ease of acceptance that there is no workshop space to create in, yet there is floor space here that I can use. I am weaving with the wisdom that to let go of old hopes, dreams, ideas and accumulated stuff will create some much needed space for the new to say ‘Hello, what about trying this?’

In the sifting and sorting there may well be sparks of joy from new creativity and hopeful possibilities. That’s the kind of joy that burns away pain, letting the past settle and sending a message into the future on what might be.

Buds are appearing…

Yesterday the weather had settled a little and the Isle of Man catamaran ran again. She sailed through the gentle falling rain into port, yet with barely a ripple on the water. Today it is lashing it down with a mixture of snow and sleet with rain and hardy fisherman are sheltering in their tents on the prom, not even letting the weather deter them from their ‘timeout’.

There is a natural cycle that is never ending out there as the branches are waving in the wind. All the old leaves have fallen and if you look closely enough the signs of new buds are coming. The tree roots go way down into the ground, yet the branches, buds, blossom, fruit and leaves change throughout each year. Occasionally, the tree breaks and uproots when the storms rage.

I have been given pause to ponder lately on what happens when we don’t let our old leaves drop. Hanging on putting additional weight and pressure on our branches and in time choking the promise of life out of any new buds.

There is a vulnerability in letting the leaves go, as our branches are left bare and exposed with every single knot, scar, wrinkle, dent and bump there for all who care to see.

Carrying old leaves will give us a tree that resembles the old tree and the added weight can bend the branches beyond anything recognisable, as we shelter behind old foliage.

It’s painful to let the wind blow through your bare branches and feel the rainfall. Yet the wisdom in letting the rain in nourishes roots, allows the wind to strengthen foundation and the light to nurture new buds.

I am more than aware of the simplicity of my words and the meaning contained therein, yet sometimes the cry for simplicity can rage through the wildest of storms.

Jane Sturgeon

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