Calm after the storm – A New Year’s Retreat

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As I am writing, I am struck by the beautiful sunset outside the window. The bare branches of trees stretch up to the colour drenched sky and I am filled with awe at the glory of nature and the rich colour palette bestowed upon us at (what we imagine to be) the bleakest time of the year.

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The New Year has just begun and as ever it feels full of hope and promise. Our family of four and Millie (our puppy) are on a week long break from the busyness of everyday life – to retreat a little (hibernation is always my winter wish...), to play, to rest, to create, to enjoy nature and each other.

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In this quiet space, we are making the time to renew our loving intentions towards each other and the world and resolving to let go of what no longer serves us. It is a gift.

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The children are currently in the pool with my husband; jumping, diving, full of joy. Water really is their favourite medium for play – my eldest daughter says she feels light and full of energy, which she does not feel upon the earth, except when playing in very natural surroundings. They are so delighted that we have a pool here and visit it twice daily. Their eyes are wide with big beaming smiles as they duck and dive through the water and I know we are offering them a real gift of slowing down and being in the moment, just now. We are still in England (which is unlike us in January when we tend to seek the winter sun), but with a swimming pool on the grounds, everyone is happy.

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And I am finding the time to write again, to craft and have long leisurely lie ins. Bliss.

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It really is blessing to have this time together to regroup.

In the middle of December we had a house fire in our home. We typically do a star path on our Nature Table over Advent. You can see details at the end of this post. We place four small beeswax candles, held in star shaped cardboard holders on the table along the star path and light a candle (or two, three, four, depending on the Advent week) every evening whilst we sing and move Mary along the path to Bethlehem. We have been doing this for years and always blow the candle out right away after the song so that the candles do not grow too small before Mary reaches the stable. For some unknown reason; be it tiredness, carelessness, distraction, we are not sure, my daughters and I left two of the candles on and unattended and went to bed 😦 Luckily we have a smoke alarm, which alerted us all to the fire. The candles had burnt down and set the cloth on fire and the fire had moved swiftly to the television (which is hidden behind another cloth we use as “the sky” of our Nature Table), so by the time I got downstairs at around 11pm, the television was ablaze. My husband was at the back of the house unaware of what was going on, but acted quickly to stop the fire spreading to the electrics and curtains by throwing all manner of damp towels and clothes onto the fire and removing the television. He also tried to remove a burning basket of knitting wool and bamboo needles, but the smoke got too thick and the basket was too hot, so he had to leave it, but luckily it was away from the electrics and other potential fire hazards.  Three fire engines arrived and quickly put out the fire and blew the smoke out of the house with minimal mess. One of our neighbours was also a great help; giving us warm clothes and a duvet for the girls and our dog Millie, to snuggle under whilst they stayed in the car, parked some distance away at their request. The other neighbours slept through it all!! It was really horrifying at the time to see the lounge ablaze, but the thick dark smoke was the main issue as we couldn’t see properly and had to leave the building for health reasaons. Luckily all is  well and the main damage is limited to the lounge and hall where the walls need cleaning and redecorating. The wooden floor also needs replacing and some of the soft furnishings/rugs, but nothing irreplaceable really.

I lost a whole knitting basket full of wool and my favourite bamboo needles and a few items of clothes that my husband threw on the fire, but all in all, it could have been so much worse and I feel we were protected somehow.

It was an accident and where in the past, I may have berated myself about neglecting to blow the candles out, I have chosen instead to be gentle on myself, to focus on being thankful and feeling blessed that nothing worse happened. We are all fine after all, including the guinea pigs, who we had to leave in the house, so all is well. We were also able to have a wonderful Christmas celebration at home, despite the lounge being out of bounds. The insurance company has been nothing but understanding and generous in replacing our goods so far.

I was mid knitting the girls some Hogwarts jumpers – in Gryffindor and Slytherin colours – and wasn’t sure if I would finish in time, but was remaining hopeful and focused! The fire singed the jumpers in several places and due to time constraints, I asked if they might be able to replace them with “the real thing”. They were happy to help and two days before Christmas, they arrived, to the girls delight and my relief!! It felt like a little Christmas miracle 🙂

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and here they are in their whole ensemble – courtesy of Father Christmas, the insurance company and kind relatives 🙂

So currently whilst we are away, cleaning work is being undertaken at home to remove the soot from the walls and shelves throughout the house, including those black webs we noticed developing after the fire , which we were told were soot webs, not cobwebs!! The place certainly looked dressed for Hallowe’en for the first few days and smelled like a bonfire! 😦

It was difficult to sleep in a house that smelled of acrid smoke, but with the help of a couple of air purifiers, the odour did dissipate after a while and we could sleep peacefully again. We regrouped reasonably quickly as Christmas was fast approaching – the show must go on and all that! 😉 In the week before Christmas we were able to host some visiting friends from the States for an afternoon of catching up and games. They gave us our new favourite game Eleminis – which we have enjoyed it on a daily basis since then 🙂 It is rather competitive but a lot of fun!!

On the 21st December we hosted a gathering of some of my “crafty” girlfriends and their children.

The children took turns decorating the two gingerbread houses that my friend Sofia and I had baked (one very late night) a couple of nights before and we ate, drank and made merry; singing all the Christmas songs we knew, with a variety of simple instruments as accompaniment. It really lifted the vibration of the house, which had been feeling rather sorry for itself. A loving hug of friendship for our home and us.

Luckily, we hadn’t had time to put our tree up in the lounge before the fire, so it didn’t smell of smoke and we enjoyed decorating it in the back extension, where we planned to have all our celebrations.

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We also put another smaller “children’s tree” (with mainly homemade decorations) up in the playroom.

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It felt healing to decorate the tree together and set our intention for a beautiful Christmas. We added a few new decorations that my daughters had made at school.

It felt cosy, and with the lounge closed off, we had a lovely celebration and probably one of our loveliest, quietest Christmases, just us four, for several days. We also had a couple of nice days out with friends

and we rang in the New Year with a favourite friend of ours at home

A fun game of charades!!  🙂

So really, although things looked rather bleak for a couple of days, there is so much to be thankful for and we have felt blessed by the many messages of support, friendship, kind offers of help and love. My husband and I even managed to go on a “date” on the 28th December when the girls went to friends’ houses – another Christmas miracle!! 😉

We missed some of our crafting time before Christmas due to the chaos at home, so we have been making up for it now on our break 🙂 The girls and I have enjoyed making some lovely window stars to adorn the windows of our holiday cottage.

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We made some sixteen pointed stars this time as well as our favourite eight pointed stars. The sixteen pointed stars look almost floral to us, we think, especially the greens and reds.

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I love the acute pointed star I made – it looks like a radiant sun, something that is often missing at this time of year! We love creating a warm, homely atmosphere wherever we go and adding our own touches 🙂

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We also made a few pipe cleaner snowflakes.

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I bought these shiny white pipe cleaners earlier in December with no real plan. I just liked them. It dawned on me they might make nice snowflakes and I am rather pleased with how they turned out.

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We twisted four lengths of pipecleaner around an axis to create eight spokes and cut small lengths to twist around each spoke. A fast and easy craft!

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We also cut out handprints of the girls hands – a yearly activity to mark how they much they have grown ( my youngest daughter had a big growth spurt over the summer and is almost catching up with her older sister!). This year they decoupaged their hand prints on cardboard (other years there has been felt, gold card, henna’d hands and hands used on a “family tree” painting.

My daughters also wanted to make their own Advent Calendars for next December.

My eldest decided upon a Hogwarts theme, as she discovered the Harry Potter books series this year and is captivated by the magic of it all.

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My youngest says her Advent Calendar will be for us – mummy and daddy – It is so adorable – we all love it!

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They are using water colours – a present from Father Christmas that come in a handy small tin where each section screws onto the next, so super portable.

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and Lyra Super Ferby pencils – like they use at their Waldorf school – for the detail. I think this is going to be an ongoing project through January as they are only doing a little at a time.

As for me, as well as losing the girl’s sweater knitting to the fire, I also lost another work in progress. that I was making for myself 😦  I urgently felt the need to make a fresh start. Luckily I had some 4mm circular needles left (my only remaining needles – sob!!) and some yarn I kept in the studio, so I have started knitting this sweater – again for me! 🙂 and I must say knitting is such healing work – creating something new stitch by stitch.

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We have also spent time contemplating the The Madonna Sequence each evening as we did last year, as the girls were keen to mark the twelve Holy Nights in some way and we used these Angel cards as a fun way to predict the twelve months ahead, with the girls drawing pictures corresponding with the month or the cards message.

I did my own special inner work, using Lynn Jericho’s Inner Christmas. Lynn, an anthroposophist,  has been sending Inner Christmas messages for the twelve Holy nights for a number of years, but this is the first year I have participated. This year, the contemplations centred around the 12 Inner Freedoms. Each day we received an email with some questions to work with/contemplate, centred around the twelve freedoms: freedom to expand, contract, centre and flow; freedom from ideals, oughts, fears and doubts and freedom of surprise, grief, love and questions. It was very freeing and thought provoking to work with these questions. I have been journalling every morning and meditating on the questions and would highly recommend this Inner work at a time when we are naturally more inward looking and  “when the veils lift that hide the spiritual world from our ordinary consciousness… and allow us to see with inspired clarity” (L Jericho).

Well, I’ve been away from this space for a very long time. I doubted I would return to my writing here, because once I was out of my weekly habit of writing, it was quite easy to let it go, as life felt full enough as it was. I even stopped taking photos for a month when my camera broke 😦

The New Year has arrived and with it, a new calling to write again, to share and record our family life, to express gratitude, for it is only a moment in time, being a mother to younger children. In the two years I have written here, a lot has happened and my daughters have changed so much. My eldest daughter is now 12 and although she still believes in magic, it is only a matter of time before her feet are firmly on the ground and cynicism and skepticism creep in; the Age of not Believing (Sherman Brothers ) and I won’t be able to share this part of our family life any more. So I will begin again and try to fill in the gaps as best I can.  Beginning is half the battle sometimes, don’t you think?

At a friend’s suggestion, each of us is writing down something for which we are grateful or something we enjoyed each day of 2019. My youngest and I want to put the messages in a jar and my eldest and my husband are going to write a list. 🙂 We routinely do this verbally at the end of the day anyway, but I think writing things down will be a more tangible reminder. It is especially a gift for the melancholic temperament (quite a few of us here!) to look back at how much goodness there is in our lives, when we may sometimes doubt it.

We will be returning home tomorrow and and luckily the bulk of the cleaning in our house has been done whilst we are away. Nothing irreplaceable has been lost so we really do count ourselves lucky. Onwards and upwards 🙂

Wishing you a peaceful and joyful start to the New Year 2019. May it be a blessed year for you all. 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Calm after the storm – A New Year’s Retreat

  1. Oh my goodness what a scary thing to happen to you but at the same time so lucky that the smoke alarms woke you in time and the damage was limited. Love the window starts, they are so pretty and the stunning photos of the colourful sky.

    Like

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