My friend Van, who writes the lovely Speed River Journal, invited me to participate in a positivity experiment: to post 10 good things that
have happened to me in 2013. It’s been a big year for me, and it’s not over yet, but the Solstice is a good time to reflect on the challenges and rewards the year has brought.
1. The garden was a rich source of pleasure this year. It provided grounding when I needed calmness and sense of connection. It taught me patience, resilience and the rewards of hard work. I learnt more about how to grow food and nourish the soil, and through that myself. There were the escapades of chicken-sitting in January, when some borrowed hens did great things for my compacted, nutrient poor “lawns” and decimated my beetroot crop (I forgave them: the eggs were delicious). There was the excitement of growing and harvesting completely new crops, like oka and Jerusalem artichokes, and just the simple pleasure of lying on the meadow* in the sun, listening to the drowsy buzzing of the bees.
2 Hiking was another activity that brought many great moments with it. There’s nothing like standing on top of mountain you’ve climbed yourself to make you feel glad to be alive. For the first few months of 2013 I spent a day most every weekend in the wilderness and loved it, even when my muscles shook with fatigue and the sweat stung my eyes. Taking myself out into those wild places remains one of the best things I can do for myself, to care for my physical, mental and spiritual health and look forward to future journeys to wild places.
3. On the topic of climbing to giddy heights, in 2013 I fell stupidly, dizzyingly, completely in love. In my mid 30’s for the first time in my life I was head-over-heels for someone, and that someone felt the same about me. It didn’t work out in the end, but I still got to feel it, and now I understand how and why people do such incredible things in love’s name. <3
4. It’s not just love that creates a life rich in meaning. I spent a month in Cusco this year, studying Spanish and volunteering in an orphanage where I helped to teach the girls how to grow and harvest their own food. I didn’t manage to teach them much in the short time I had, but I learnt so much about the rewards of work that has a real, positive impact on other people’s lives. The experiences I had in those few weeks caused me to seriously re-evaluate what I could do with my life and my odd parcel of skills. It’s an incredible feeling to know that you are going something, no matter how small, that can change someone’s life or even just make them feel, for a little while, that they are loved and that everything is ok.
5. Friends also contribute to a rich and rewarding life, and in 2013 I continued to meet and make friends with wonderful, inspiring and generous people. This year I met the delightful Occasional Food Fairy, who makes my world a better space, and J, who helped me stay sane and keep my head together when my heart was all over the place. I’m also astonished and deeply appreciative of the wonderful friendships I found with taiko folk, my Spanish language class and the brilliant Hobart sustainability crew. You are shining treasures, each and every one of you.
6. Speaking of Spanish class, it was my first foray back into (semi) formal study and learning, and I loved it! My brain hummed with happiness as the holes in my neglected second language were filled and I remembered the joy of learning that comes when you are studying something that fires your passions with a good teacher and class. I’m continuing now with private lessons here in Lima with the aim of eventually being fluent in another tongue.
7. Taiko, too, provided many joyous moments in 2013. I started performing in January, in February I played at the Fractangular festival (taiko at a bush doof!), in May I was part of the concert crew and in August we drummed with refugee kids in a beautiful workshop. Drumming remains a physical expression of joy and a hobby I hope to keep up for many years (now to chase up leads on a Lima group…)
8. Ah, Lima. Yes, 2013 will be forever remembered as the Year of Peru. After going back in March/April I decided I really did want to spend a year in this amazing country, working on sustainability projects, and I somehow managed to do it. I landed a professional volunteering position with Peru’s National Parks Service and at the end of October I packed up my life and came back to Peru. Although living in Lima poses some pretty serious challenges I’m loving the work I came here to do.
9. Now here I am, seated at the dining table in my flat in Lima, streaming classical music radio from home, with the smell of freshly baked Christmas cake making everything feel sweet and good. A family recipe for the traditional Austrian bischofsbrot, tweaked by each generation and now given a Peruvian interpretation, replacing brandy with pisco and using local nuts and dried fruits. I love this evolving tradition, the blending of heritage with the here and now. It’s a delicious metaphor for the journey I’m on. Hopefully it will taste as good as it smells!
10. If we take ‘great’ to mean those momentous occasions where everything changes, then my greatest moment of 2013 would have to be learning that when I really want something, that if I really try, I can achieve most anything. I learnt to see that the world really is my oyster (though I prefer scallops myself) and that often the only things limiting to me are all in my mind. We create chains for ourselves, our inner voices telling us that we can’t, we can’t… It turns out that’s not true: we can! It’s a realisation that is both completely liberating and utterly terrifying. It takes a little getting used to.
What were your great moments in this tumultuous year?
*I’m not a fan of lawn, and in my garden a century of lawn-keeping had left the soil badly compacted, nutrient deficient and pretty much devoid of life. As well as the good digging over the chickens provided, this year I let the weeds to their thing and colonise the burnt out patches of dust. Plants with deep tap roots broke up the compacted soil and let the rain penetrate it; weed with big leaves shaded the dirt from the worst of the sun and allowed other plants to grow in the cool and damp; clovers fixed nitrogen to reintroduce nutrients and I found myself with a diverse little meadow instead of a sad patchy lawn. Victory!