I woke up early today, made a cup of tea, and sat down on the couch. It wasn’t long before Willow jumped up on the blanket thrown over my legs. She gave me some smooches, purring loudly as I encouraged her to settle further down my legs so I had room for my laptop.
It’s not that cold this morning, and I don’t mean to be too dramatic, but I think summer might be over. In the cottage garden the daffodils and other bulbs have emerged from the soil, much to my horror. My first instinct was to stamp them back into the ground, for surely doing so will repel the approaching winter!
Tomorrow, it will be April, and as I think about how I’m going to sticky tape the falling leaves back onto the trees, I look back on our summer and know that we lived every moment of it.
Writing anything right now seems self indulgent. There is a lot going on in the world, and the gap between now and our last story can be explained by my waiting for peace. Though, I realise now, that might be a long time coming.
So, with Willow and the blanket pinning me down, I decided I should write -for the comfort she gives me can surely be shared.
Like a lot of people lately, I have been excessively consuming news, and although it may come from a place of compassion, it is not helpful nor is it healthy. So, last week I decided to limit that consumption and focus on what I can do.
I thought about all the animals caught up in conflict, the people crossing borders with their furry friends, and the animals waiting in shelters -shelters not unlike the one I work for here in Hobart. I discovered a foundation called Happy Paw that assists shelters all over Ukraine. I sent through 2000 UAH, because that is something active and positive I can do, rather than endlessly scrolling news articles.
I won’t let the bad things in the world consume me. I will help where I can, whether that’s financially or with my time, and I will focus on the kindness, because there is so much of it when I look around.
Yes, pets are our comfort in this world, and if you don’t have a cat, that’s okay because Steph and I can share ours with you. Today, I’m sharing with you photos from our recent trip down to Eagle Hawk Neck on the Tasman Peninsula.
This area of Tasmania has become our second home over summer. In the mornings Steph and I swim in the cold water, watch the waves with a cup of tea in the afternoon, and at night we drive into the forest to camp -the salt still on our skin as we cook dinner in the van.
It’s easy to find these secret camps in the forest. We explore old forestry roads until we find the perfect one -usually at the end of a road with a clearing that’s nice and flat. Sometimes people leave rubbish around, so I pick up any old bottles and junk to make it beautiful again.
There’s not really a golden rule to finding the perfect camp. It’s a mixture of looking at satellite maps and exploring an area that might be interesting. Sometimes it’s hard work, but when you find one, you’ll be sure to keep its location closely guarded.
Willow spends most of her day lounging on the dashboard. It’s not until the later afternoon that she wants to go exploring. In the forest, it’s safe to let her outside, and she sits watching the sights as she breathes in the evening air.
I will sit with her until the mosquitos start bothering us, then it’s time to come inside to the shelter of our little home on wheels.
The next morning, we drive back down to the beach.
I used to hate the cold water. When we first started swimming at the start of summer, my body revolted as I crept into the ocean, crossing my arms and holding them close to my chest as I strained to breathe. As the weeks passed, something changed -the water came to lull me, and for the rest of that day I would feel calm and content. I needed the water, and I needed that sense of calm.
By the end of summer I was embracing every opportunity to swim on my days off or even after work. I would dive in, gliding over the ripples in the sand as I watched the fish that swam close to the shore. When I surfaced I would lie on my back staring at the sky, and I felt strong.
I think about my reaction to the water and how it’s changed, and how the water temperature has not. How much of our reactions to difficult situations are learnt and how much is useful? Swimming in the ocean has given me a confidence that extends long after I leave the water.
In the afternoons we drive to the shallow bays where the water has been heating up all day. We go out on our paddle boards and watch the stingrays as they dart around underneath us.
The world is crazy but I find stability in the tides, in the sea breeze, and in the quiet moments we spend with Willow in the forest.
Right now, she is peaking at me from behind my laptop screen as I write this. It’s getting light now, and the day has begun. Out the window I can see the colour of the snapdragons I planted last year. Soon, Willow will get up and sit by the window, watching for any morning activity in the garden.
I think about how lucky I am to have spent another summer with Willow and Steph on our trips away in our camper van.
I will let the daffodils rise and the leaves fall, and just as I’m about to get up, a Loudon Wainwright III song comes on.
This summer I went swimming
This summer I might have drowned
But I held my breath and I kicked my feet
And I moved my arms around
I moved my arms around
* * *
Thanks everyone, and sorry this latest story was so long coming. I have installed a new heater in the van to keep us toasty over winter, and we’ve already got a few trips planned. Last winter, I talked about taking Willow to the snow. That didn’t happen, so we will be making sure it does happen this year. Take care!
Oh, the foundation I donated to was Happy Paw and you can find out more about them here: https://happypaw.ua/ua