Friday, 24 March 2017

Mindful Meditation and the Common Cold

Why is it that, when you have something to do, somewhere to go, some anticipated event or just some happy holiday time to spend in serious lazing about, a cold makes an appearance? I've been lucky this winter, successfully fighting off a couple of incipient colds, but this one has descended on me with a vengeance, making me feel ill and irritable. If the old saying 'Three days coming, three days here, three days going' is correct, then it is now here, although I have already had a rough couple of days. It's not due to start going until Sunday, which means I'm not going to be on top form for the belly dance party on Saturday evening. If it weren't for the fact that I have offered lifts to others and have some pre-loved clothing to sell in aid of Medecins Sans Frontieres, I would consider cancelling. Yes, I feel that poorly!

I nipped out yesterday to buy a stack of menthol and eucalyptus sweets and treated myself to a sandwich while gazing out at the Cleddau from Brunel Quay. The tide was heading out, and there was a lot of water in the river, running very fast, but otherwise not a lot to see. I felt a bit better for a little while, but decided to get home before the next wave of sneezing and coughing made my driving too erratic for safety.

I'm half-way through a 6 week mindfulness course (run by Mindful Future Wales, a local CIC), thinking that it would round-out and gap-fill my existing practice (which it is). Last week, we covered Compassionate Acceptance, so I thought it would be a really good time to practise a little mindful meditation on accepting that I have a cold and, while I can't change that, I can change how I feel about it.

So, settle and focus on the breath.
Yes, it would be nice to be able to breathe normally. How can a nose be blocked and dripping at the same time? My head feels as though it's full of heavy cotton wool, my eyes stream as if I'm crying and I can scarcely keep them open.
Re-focus, breathe. Shut your eyes, it's okay.
I have to breathe through my mouth. My mouth and throat become dry and a tickly cough starts.
Take a sip of water, have a cough sweet. Breathe. Relax.
My nose is dripping onto my front. I wonder if it's possible to tie a handkerchief, like an under-nose face veil, to catch it?
Nothing needs to be fixed. Let it be.
I feel a tingle in my nose and grab a handful of tissues just in time to catch the outflow from a series of gargantuan, bladder control-defying sneezes, which leaves me shaking and groggy. I have a splitting headache.
You're okay. It's just a cold. Everyone gets them from time to time. It's here to give your immune system a workout, then it will go. It's a signal to be kinder to yourself.
Yes, indeed. And the kindest thing I can do at this moment is to make a mug of hot lemon juice and honey, and retire to bed early.

Well, that was yesterday. I slept for nearly twelve hours (again - third time this week!). I still feel ill. This morning, the sun is shining, it looks beautiful out there. I shall do a little meditation on my patio swing-seat, then do some digging, where my nose can drip away onto the earth and I can sneeze or cough without making the furniture rattle. Then a hot bath can sort out any aches and pains.
Isn't this self-indulgence?
No, it's self-kindness, giving yourself what you need to feel better sooner.
I find myself re-reading what I've written, stuck.
Go on out, enjoy the sunshine; it will do you good!

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Happy Whatever

My friend Chrissie and I share a birthday and see eye-to-eye on many things. In one of those strange twists of fate, it turns out that when I was going to a town several miles from my school for elementary-intermediate ballet lessons on a Saturday morning, or private lessons at my ballet teachers' house on a Saturday afternoon, Chrissie was somewhere else in that same town, perhaps helping with the shopping or hanging out with her friends and siblings. She's been belly dancing for longer than I have, although prefers not to perform and is very modest. (When I complained that I still couldn't get diaphragm flutters, she said, "What are they? You mean, like this?" and demonstrated.) She now lives in the same village and pops in occasionally to put the world to rights over mugs of tea.

She's an experienced crafter, too. Amongst other things last year, she made her daughter's wedding dress. As I was rifling through a stash of un-named yarns which someone had recycled in my direction, I mused that she seemed to be knitting for everyone but herself, in an attempt to provide cosy Christmas and new baby presents on an extremely tight budget.

My hands closed round a 100g ball of chunky yarn in a pinkish lilac colour. It would tone with her purple coat (we may share a birthday, but our skin tones are different!). Perhaps she'd like a buff, to snuggle her neck or keep her ears warm on a chilly morning? 100g should be enough. A quick search on Ravelry brought up this pattern for a cabled cowl.

The pattern was based on aran weight yarn on 5mm needles. No problem, as I was going to be using larger yarn and needles. I did test swatches with 6, 7 and 8 mm circular needles and decided that the fabric from the 6 mm was best. The pattern was easy to follow, although the resulting width of the cowl was quite narrow - more a neck-warmer. At my usual death-grip tension, aran on 5mm needles would have been too tight around the neck! The Ravelry pictures show two and a half pattern repeats, or thereabouts, so I did that too. The instructions suggest five or six repeats, but the knit would have to be much more soft and squooshy for that to work - who has a neck that long? The finished cowl used up just over half the ball. As I put my hands into it to hold it out to admire, I realised that it was roughly the right size to cover both hands. So there was probably enough yarn left for a pair of short mitts to match, although it was going to be close.

I started on the left mitt, using the pattern for the back and knitting the palm in stocking stitch. I reversed the order of the cable pattern for the right hand mitt, so that it would be a mirror-image. I used the purl row (and a purlwise cast-off) for the edges at the wrist, the top of the palm, and the thumb hole, so the mitts looked a match to the cowl pattern. I had to reduce the number of rows and pattern repeats, using the kitchen scales to keep a check on the amount of yarn used and remaining. There was just enough.

The mitts are quite large, so I'm hoping they won't be too big, but should provide some protection against a cold steering wheel whilst allowing the fingers to grip it.

By our birthday, the weather will be warmer, so this present can't wait until then.

Happy ... whatever.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Impatient to Get Gardening!

What do you do when it's too cold, dark and wet to go out into the garden and Gardener's World hasn't started yet? (It starts this week, so I won't have withdrawal symptoms for much longer!)
Do some garden planning, perhaps?
My preferred way to do this is in a hot bath with a mug of herb tea, a notebook and pen, and a stack of seed catalogues, but I don't seem to have received any catalogues at my new address, despite sending change of address information. It looks like paper catalogues are now by request, which is sensible, and I failed to request them, which is not.

Despite my lack of planning, I'm feeling impatient to get out into the garden again. There were a couple of mornings with sunny spells recently. On 24th February (or 23rd, perhaps?), I even ended up in my T shirt at one point, and could hear a bumble bee somewhere in the hedge. The cats thought it was great, sprawled on the patio or the swing seat in the sun. I was transplanting aquilegia and crocuses which had popped up in the grass. I found a bag of compost leaning against the shed, and wondered where I'd got this wonderful, rich, dark brown, crumbly compost from. Then I remembered - this was the bag I used to hold the almost-ready compost from one of the bins last year! Oh my! It's now possibly the best compost I've ever made! I only managed to transplant half of the aquilegia and ran out of appropriately-sized pots, so need to buy some more - and some more compost. The more I dig in the garden, the more I realise how stony and claggy the soil is. It could do with a lot of improvement. And in the meantime, I also have various roses, buddleias, fuchsia and whatever else needs saving, to dig up and plant in pots while I sort out where things are going to go, and create some dug-over soil for them to go in.

Having run out of pots, I had another go at some brambles and retreated indoors just as it came over all cloudy, in time for lunch. And then it started raining. Again.

March 1st - St David's Day - saw me cutting back the buddleia which needs to come out from under the washing line (I started trying to get a garden fork around and under it, but that will be a big job!). Mrs Blackbird decided that nest-building was the order of the day. Mr Blackbird just posed around on the top of various sheds while she frantically chucked leaves and bits around, taking beak-fulls of grass, small twigs, moss and so on back into the hedge. I think she might be in a bit of the privet hedge behind the camellia near the patio. She went crashing through the camellia several times when I was out there, despite the fact that I was working just a couple of metres away. I warned the cats to leave her be and they happily complied. I think they sensed that if they got too close, she would just go berserk and attack them. She carried on nest-building in the pouring rain the following day too, and I haven't seen her since, although Mr Blackbird has stopped posing so much and now just sits on the hedge or in the lilac, singing away. A dunnock has been providing some competition. He has such a lovely song.

Since then, I haven't managed a proper gardening session. I managed to prepare a couple of pots and made first sowings of beetroot and spinach. The sun came out the other day, and I got my shoes, gloves and coat on, only for it to start spitting as soon as I got out there. Within half an hour, it was coming down really hard, leaving standing water on the horse field on the other side of the garden fence.

The spring flowers I have in pots are really pretty, and the hellebores, which appeared as seedlings in the edge of the gravel 'bed' the year I moved in, have large, dusky pink flowers. Buds are breaking out all over - the first of the camellia flowers are opening, it won't be long before the Clematis montana flowers, and I can see colour on the tips of the lilac flower buds. I want to get out there, but there's little point when it's so wet. The birds and flowers are putting me to shame - they're getting on with the business of early spring, whatever the weather!