Autumn has arrived, in our little pocket of country and, while birds sing in the morning sunshine, there is a distinct absence … the swallows and house martins have flown. This realisation feels like a mixture of things, not least a sense of having been left, the environment abandoned as the wise ones travel to better climes.
A few days ago, I noted that there appeared to be greater activity in the skies around our home, and felt then that the time was near for the little birds to go. They were ducking and diving as usual, feeding on little insects as they flew about the house tops and the fields, but they also appeared to be testing the wind currents, training the young among them to find the strongest air streams, launching themselves into long-distance flight.
I hear myself beginning to sound like a demure or wistful old person, which I most definitely am not, and I feel a sense too of frustration at not yet being in a position to escape the oncoming cold months myself. Wondering how perfectly irony is playing centre stage in my life, and why it is that I am back living in a climate and a similar locality to that which I had flown from, on purpose, before.
The absence of the beautiful birds from Africa strikes me as sad, but it also carries with it a huge life lesson showing that, if one focuses purely on that which one has been gifted, designed and prepared for, one can achieve the impossible – and be known for it. Who would have thought that it were possible to fly from the Berwickshire Hills in Britain to KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, without jet engine, fuel or stewardesses to take care of your meals? The mind cannot easily conceive of how a tiny bird might travel such vast distance, without super fantastic engineering help and a great deal of support to achieve it.
I am becoming far too sensitive to these things of Nature, I tell myself, far too aware of the nuances and influences all around me, tuned into so much. Does it hold one back being such a sensitive person, or does it give one ‘the edge’? It is not as though I chose to spend my days and weeks and years entirely enveloped in the land surrounded by the farming businesses of others, nor to isolate myself from the business and wider world. However, life’s demands have necessitated my being based for the last eight years in a place where I have had to draw on vast inner resources to survive, to guide, to mentor, to support, to lead … with very limited physical or emotional or reliable other resources of those for myself.
In Nature (as before in Australia, and in Africa too) I have found mentorship, presence, life lessons, a certain amount of peace and comfort and joy. Fascination is what keeps me pointing forwards, as well as a daily hunger to learn, and I soak up experiences like a sponge, learning all the time, wherever I am. Nothing is ever taken for granted, nothing ever does not teach me something ~ even if it is what one ought never to do, or never again at least. There is a storehouse of treasure in my life, which I would love to share more of with others and do, to an extent, as I am able. There are lessons that I learn each day and do my best to share through the medium of the internet, or in person with those around me.
One of the ‘benefits’ of being almost constantly in a type of dance, of having to learn simple and more robust skills on the hop, is mastering the art of adjusting agilely and competently as you go along, in one unfamiliar environment after another. Over the most recent several years, I have been faced with needing to quickly master skills as diverse as how to cope with the practicalities and strains of being surrounded by domineering / dominating others, whose businesses dictate the quality and outcomes of our lives, to how and when to have the hedges clipped and other seemingly insignificant skills such as when to plant seeds for food, to how to prevent or ignore the fact that the water we use is always turning blue, to facing architectural and climatic challenges in the location where most of my life takes place, to bravely confronting environmental matters … to supervising the entrance of universities, to discussing business operation in unknown and unchartered territory, to dealing with boarding schools, learning to attend convoluted banking online, setting up websites and voluntarily providing educational platforms for others to learn from, all in a mixed bag of things that are, mostly, entirely new and alien to me. Indeed, how to achieve these tasks when the pot is empty in so many ways, the tank of resource nowhere near full, making the simple organisation of a job such as this – the management of daily life itself – almost impossible for much of the time. Swallow or eagle or turkey, I ask myself? Perhaps a wounded warbler, that will once again fly. How would a bird do this, if it were encumbered by so much ‘life’ stuff?
Such things as these that I describe, or the challenge thereof, might seem incredulous to some, who are completely caught up in another life or a far more insular, even simply a more familiar and unchanging ‘world’, where there is a myriad of life systems and there are a range of structures to support. The life I am living at the moment was not designed for the faint hearted, and nor have I been prepared to nor able to walk on by, and one can only hope that it is providing the air licence in the most spectacular fashion. Even though I look with awe at what has been achieved and at what has been accomplished, I can admit that the burden has brought me to my knees tirelessly and repeatedly, over a number of years.
It is not all burden, however. In the midst of living life as presented, facing challenges head on, asserting better choices, making fast decisions for the best, rescuing and reviving … somehow lessons of perseverance and faith and determination and release step in. One almost learns to settle for status quo rather than have another breakdown … but ‘status quo’ is never a good option … and so one learns to get up yet again. You repeatedly find the breezes that can pick you up and take you upwards, extending you into a stronger flow ~ always the flow ~ but not yet the jet propulsion.
Every day has lessons in perseverance. Every day one is learning or practising newfound skill, or receiving fresh revelation and assurance. Daily one is feeding on morsels of encouragement and grace, the little things that keep you going far and beyond the endurance of most others that you know, beyond what you can only guess that many others would not be able to stand.
There are birds who are far larger, far more robust, far stronger and higher flyers than the swallow, but it is the swallow who flies from Cape Town to England, from Durban to Scotland, from other parts of Africa to places far out of reach of most. It is the swallow who has been designed and trained for the long distance journey, without the comfort constantly of the familiarity that they might otherwise always have known.
And so I look up at the skies, around the house and the property that have held so many life lessons for me, and I wish those tiny birds well. Feeling not a little sadness at their parting, while knowing with optimism that some of them will make it back here in about six or seven months’ time, cheering myself wearily and arming myself with hope. I wonder how much longer it will be before I can get myself up into the jet stream, free to fly to where there is warmth again?
Closing my notebook, collecting my tea cup from my bench seat in the coolly warm sun, I head back indoors, tired but resolute, at the same time mildly resigned. For now, it is Autumn and there is Life to get on with, right here on the ground.