The Travelodge left us yesterday. In the same way she arrived, she slipped out with Greg in the driver’s seat and Tommy as the co-pilot. While I did make my way downstairs to take this snap I wondered if I should have made more fuss, said goodbye with a bit of fanfare. But then, I’m not really the kind for goodbyes and fanfare. I’d rather slip out the side door too and I’m quite seasoned with letting go. We’ve living in ‘chapter Holland’ now and we’ll have a lifetime of wonderful memories and stories to share, that’s enough.
“As instinctively as the swallows, I have always known the time to go to a place and the time to leave”. Juliette de Bairacli Levy
I’m a bit obsessed with swallows at the moment. Throughout my whole life I’ve had a reoccurring dream of flying. In my dream I can fly. Mostly I fly freely but I can control the flight if I need to slow down, speed up, go higher and I can bring myself down safely. It seems a little swallow like doesn’t it. They fly high, following the seasons as they travel great distances. Yet, they always know when to come home.
It feels like we are home. One day the camper was home and the next day we step into this home. Ready and of course a little excited. I do understand to a lot of people that moving across the world must seem like a giant step. To me it feels like the next step that followed on from the previous step and the one before that. I’m not sure how to do justice to explaining that. Maybe like Jimmy as he learns to write his name. One day he’ll write his name and he’ll feel elated and then he’ll simply get on with learning to write another letter beyond the J.i.m.m.y needed for his name. I move in a forward motion and for me because of my character or is it DNA (I’m not sure, my cousins say it is) I often build new nests. That’s not usually the tricky bit for me.
Taking the steps.
Getting anywhere is a series of steps. Of course our steps will look different we probably have different interests, needs and responsibilities but we all take steps.
As I get up to put the coffee pot on…a series of steps. I have to take 10 steps from my desk (I just counted) to get to my kitchen. I then set up my cafetiere and I take in the smell of ground coffee as I spoon the required amount into the funnel. Of course a Nespresso would be easier but then there’s this here to consider and for me taking steps is about considering. I can hear the pot bubbling so I’ll return to it when it stops. As I continue with this story the familiar waft of coffee fills the air and in a few hours when Greg wakes it’ll tempt him to join me.
Life’s all about taking steps. Steps to run a marathon, steps to write a book, to recovering patience, to grow food, cook a meal, save for a goal, pack a suitcase, go to work, get fit, paint pictures, learn a new skill, organise kids activities, get your washing done…ya da ya da. Time is insignificant it will simply pass anyhow. The tricky bit is sometimes working out which steps to take and what we’re prepared to compromise to get there? Some steps we have to take. Of course. Non-negotiable. Even then we have choices though don’t we? Most of us always have choices.
Wikipedia tells me that Swallows are known as the “bird of freedom” because it cannot endure captivity and will only mate in the wild. Ok, so now I really love the swallow. This is sometimes where the biggest steps are taken. The steps where you give yourself the freedom to take the steps. I reckon the sparrow is onto something. Freedom to the swallow is knowing what is really important at a particular period of time in it’s life (the season). Hold that swallow captive and it’s not living. Sometimes it can feel like you have to be a bit wild to not be captive in human life because that can involve changing shit up, being different and looking inside (at the season) to go your own wild way. Taking steps, maybe new ones, different ones, sometimes sideways or a big breath and a jump. I can tell you though whichever way I’m stepping or jumping I’m looking for wolves along the way. Wolves inspire me not sheep, they’re interesting.
With that in mind my Dutch life this week has been about taking a few steps towards watering my grass. The green grass that travels with me. Metaphorically of course, I don’t have actual grass to water here. Nor am I here chasing greener grass. The big magic in my life has never come from chasing. Searching, yes. Searching very close to home. And here is some magic I’ve found in this searching – green grass is not in scarcity it’s in abundance and generally it’s free.
Learning the language.
Last time we lived in Holland we didn’t learn Dutch. We lived in Amsterdam and that city will not help you learn it’s language. Any hint of an English accent and the Amsterdamer’s are practicing their English with you. I admire that of course, how they can flip into another language, often three languages. Not helpful to me though, I’m already language lazy. My parents speak Dutch but like a lot of Dutch migrants in Australia they didn’t pass on their language to their children. It’s a bit embarrassing with my shiny new Dutch passport when I’m at any offical type of office.
A big pull for us to move here was the fact that our kids could learn language. At their school they will need to learn Dutch, French and Spanish. Mostly their classes are taught in English. My mum moved to Australia at 23 with no English. I’ll probably never write books or blogs in Dutch but learning the language, why not?
How many migrants have moved across the world and learnt a new language? Millions. It will be uncomfortable to get things wrong and I’ll have to put myself out there to face my friends embarrassment and fear but where might that jump lead me? Time will tell but I’m guessing more confidence and connection will be a given.
We’ve only just moved here so I don’t want to fill my days with commitments or costs. So I look a little close to home. Creatively.
Voila – De Markt an Hilversum.
I’ve told you about our village market, perfect. I’ll start here. First with practicing speaking and also with learning new words.
I saddle up behind this couple to buy my cheese. Luckily a few other Dutchies also saddle up. Here’s a thing about Holland – they don’t queue. Nope, in fact they queue jump. I kid you not. I’ve stood at bars like a lost Aussie puppy watching everyone else get served. We missed a plane to Berlin once as we hopelessly watched holiday makers hop under the barrier and take their position closer to the front of the queue. My kids will need to learn that when they try to line up for slides and the like.
Once on a return trip to Sydney after living in Holland for a few years last time I was nearly blown over with the order. An actual line for a bus, unheard of. On this day though it worked in my favour, the queue jump – more time to listen and observe. I’m also not usually in a hurry so that helps.
‘Wil je proberen?’ I kept hearing. So I watched. As the customer nodded they were handed a piece of cheese to try. Oh! Ok! They are being asked if they want to try. I was ready so I pushed in. I managed to buy myself a wedge of cheese in Dutch. I also expanded my language by listening to how they ask. Instead of my usual ‘een stuk of Kaas’ I added ‘Ik wil graag…’ – I would like (a piece of cheese). Now, I’m not going to write a book, heck I’m not even going to write an SMS in dutch but then that’s not the goal is it. Small steps.
With a little more confidence I go to the Baker. He asks me if I want English or Dutch. I tell him ‘ik will oefenen’ – I want to practice. So I do. And here’s the kicker, at the end he says to me ‘your Dutch goes good’. Ain’t that a little confidence boost. Obviously to take the small steps on this day I needed a little bravery, a little confidence. To grow that confidence I’ve had to take the little steps…head into the wild, out of the safe confines of captivity. Into the unknown. Of course it’s a little familiar and there’s discomfort but not as much as if I stepped into a market square in say, Moscow. That would have taken a whole other level of steps and confidence.
I’ve been running and cycling woods paths, I’m not fearful on my own. I’ve been practicing and playing in that unfamiliarity and discomfort the whole time we traveled.
I’m trying new styles of writing and I’m doing it here not on IG where I previously shared thoughts (and got a creative fix) because this feels safer. Expanding these thoughts is pushing me but again a series of steps. Please excuse my lack of presence on IG it’s not personal. I’m playing with deleting the ap between visits, it’s purpose is changing for me.
Oops, sidetracked…back to the market story. Greg was busy shopping for the veggies. Like a sparrow that mates monogamously, I find that playing to each others strengths is a much better way to live a lifetime together. So I make the plant and flower purchases. A lavender because it smells nice, it’s beautiful and because I need bees. I’m about to plant pumpkin.
Also, because one day I found a blog that really spoke to me. I can’t remember if it was a blog or an Instagram picture but the writer had a card with a little bunch of home picked lavender to give to her chiropractor that was leaving. It struck me as the most simplest, most beautiful gesture. Sharing ideas of kindness rather than of how to want more – I was hooked.
I got quite lost in that blog and in time I would make a huge leap of faith and reach out to this sharer of kindness. That writer and photographer is now one of my best friends and not a day passes where we don’t share a snippet with each other. We get each other, it’s nice to be got. I’m a more confident person because she gets me. A tribe matters – even for wolves.
And we cycle home.
“Faith is the bird that feels the dawn when the dawn is still dark”. Rabindranath Tagore.
I’m not a religious person but I do believe in magic. I think swallows seem to know a little bit about magic.
As I sit here in the dark on my first day of ‘farmer’s hours’ I can’t help but feel magic.
For a long time I fought the idea of a schedule because I needed to be able to fly and how could I be spontaneous and learn new things if I was restricted (in captivity) by a schedule?
I have come to the realisation that a schedule doesn’t have to restrict my freedom. Maybe it’s the answer to finding a new kind of freedom…depending on what I schedule (of course). In fact, maybe I spent the past few years learning to unschedule to get precisely to this point. This moment here. (Steps you see.)
I only schedule what matters and I still leave a load of empty schedule to work that shit out and to go for an after dinner cycle if that’s what I feel like at the time. I needed a few years of scheduling ’empty space’ to get here. Sometimes I felt like I was just being idle.
I’ll probably never write a cleaning schedule, that’s just not me but I will schedule a little routine to protect this desire to be free. To fly. To write. (In the last years I’ve taken photos, blogged, grown a garden, completed IQS programs, joined a bushwalking club (never attended), made some new friends, hiked, embraced solitude, sold our stuff, camped on my own with kids, knitted 50 beanies – all to fly.
So, no. I’ve not been idle Ms Critic but I have taken it slow. I happen to prefer to fly in my life rather than flying through it. When I fly in it I notice it and I can make adjustments. Now I want to create something different and the timing is right hence the need for a rethink about scheduling. I’m the opposite of needing to slow down – I need to step up a little.
I can’t write this as a ten steps post because I’d hate to think that we’d limit ourselves to just 10 or to presume what you need. Who knows how many steps something takes or how long? My steps will be different to yours and what I need for freedom looks different to what you need.
I’m interested in what you saw in your learning and exploration of a day. How are you feeling? What are you thinking about? Paint or show me a picture of something real. Challenge my opinion. I can usually relate to that on some level. That is the place that I work out my own steps – from those cues.
If you’re wandering about farmer’s hours. When I came up with this idea about committing to writing I knew I’d need to take some steps. It seemed Elizabeth Gilbert had a good step that I could try.
EG writes in the wee hours and calls them farmer’s hours. Now farmers in my opinion are pretty smart people as is EG so this is an idea that I could work with. Full article here.
It also works with my family. Here I am just about done on my first draft at 7.30 and I’ve been up since 4.30 am. My own secret world of magic with warm socks and warm coffee. It’s about the time I will need to wake the little people next week for school. Of course I’ve let go of things to create this space. I’ve written about them before but just for the record if it’s your first read: tv, drinking, scaled down use of my one SM channel and late nights.
It also frees up the afternoon for my kids. They are leaning new languages and a new school system. I want to be available to them after school for that. In a present way. My farmer’s hours mean I’ve had my time flying in the writing zone. I’ve protected that and in the afternoon I’ll protect another thing that’s important to me by supporting my kids in their school work and transition.
One of the things I have learnt as a midwife is that every single woman’s birth story is different. I know this because I have been privileged to attend many. I have also had the privilege of hearing many. I promise, every kindy party someone told me their birth story and they were all different and all significant because they belonged to that woman, she had her own story. We learn from each other’s stories but we all have our own.
Watering our own grass, we can only do that for ourselves. There’s not one book that will give us our freedom. Books and stories are amazing because they give us inspiration and point us in the right direction but the steps, we have to figure those out for ourselves to find the magic. To me, it’s in the knowing of what’s enough and finding new ways to enjoy and be led by the abundance. It feels like freedom every day, even in the mundane. Many writers and people have pointed me in this direction and many more will take me further. But I took my own path.
I think this post might be a double banger this week. Dutch life and mulled over thoughts (in 2000 + words 🙈 somebody stop me). So it’s a one post week. Trial and error right there and a schedule that allows for freedom. My farmer’s hours are precious, this is not my only writing project. The time needs to be shared between the three. This photo I took this week reminds me of the importance of knowing when to slip in and when to slip out. Invisibility is a superpower. It’s the power of knowing where the safest place for you to be is and showing up there by letting go of what you don’t need.