The Way We Were…

I was out walking this week through the sodden November fields. The air was damp and misty, the tacky soil clung to my wellies and the brambles in the hedges were shrouded in sodden dead leaves, the luscious blackberries of autumn already a distant memory. It didn’t really feel like the best day to embark on a five mile walk. But I continued on enjoying the faint smell of woodsmoke drifting lazily across the fields, and a feeling in the air that promised of glittering frosts to come.

Walking on the edge of the field I could see the tracks left by a tractor, the soil ploughed and turned leaving deep furrows and ridges, old crop residue buried beneath the fresh soil and left to feed the new crops in the spring. This made me think about the circle of life – and my mother, who always loved the sight of freshly turned soil in a garden.

I thought about remembering and looking back, how we see things, and I realised that most of the time we think of a person as we see them now, or, if we have lost elderly parents as I have, as they were in their latter days. The wise gurus advise us to ‘live in the now’ and I agree that is important for now is what we have.  Just this very minute is all we have for sure. But that doesn’t need to stop us remembering once in a while, remembering the past and our people; our family and friends who have made us who we are today, for better or worse.

We, and those around us change over the years, it’s inevitable. But it is interesting to note that when we are with someone regularly we often don’t notice any subtle differences until they are completely obvious – perhaps due to illness or dementia. Dementia is a huge and heartbreaking illness when it strikes and is sadly becoming more prevalent, but what do we make of the gradual changes, the natural ageing process that creeps up on us and those we love unannounced ?

It is easy to put people into compartments; perhaps refer to stereotypes, label people. When you hear someone referred to as a pensioner what vision does that conjure up in your mind? Not someone energetic and vibrant that’s for sure. And yet many people at pensionable age are certainly more nimble and sparky than the word suggests! Even if someone doesn’t have the energy any more to hop around the place or run marathons it doesn’t mean their thoughts and wishes are necessarily slowing down. They are still the same people inside that they always were.

At the end of her days, my mother had never really lost her determination, or her interest in her family, her cooking and her home, but it is hard for me as her daughter to shake off the memory of her fragility and frailty towards the end. It wasn’t until recently when I was going through an old suitcase full of her old photos and keepsakes that I began thinking about her as a young woman, full of hopes and dreams. She had kept so much through the years, from 21st birthday cards, my dad’s letters to her, full of love and care, wedding telegrams, cards and letters celebrating the births of my sister and me, and much more. There is a picture of her at the age of 21; she had a tiny waist, lustrous dark hair, styled with waves that were the fashion of the day, and was wearing a classic pencil skirt, a twinset and pearls, and staggeringly high heals. She looked the height of the fashion of the time, beautiful and stylish. What did she do that day? Did she have a party? Paint the town red? I wish I could ask her. To us she was mum and granny and she loved being that, but once in a while she liked to remind us about the glamorous young girl she once was.

But this isn’t so much of a trip down memory lane. It is more about looking at life and those around us with more than a passing glance or an assuming manner. It’s about looking beyond what is in front of us. Sometimes all is not what it seems, or once upon a time things were different; life was different. There is a lot of information and guidance hidden within our lives and experiences . When you turn a light on in a dark place you illuminate the things that were there all along but you didn’t see. To ‘see’ takes time. Life moves fast and we move fast through it. We see the normal everyday things but not always the incredible richness that is there. If we look more closely, there are patterns , textures, edges and roundness. And if we engage our intuitive awareness beyond the patterns, we can sense energies. And if we look at a person with fresh eyes and listen with renewed awakening we can reach below the surface. In turn we can engage more with those we love and reach a better understanding. And sometimes it is worth remembering that looking at the past helps us to understand each other better, and helps us see more clearly when we look at those we love.

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