I once heard a great storyteller who started her tale by asking her audience to imagine a birch wood in the low evening sunlight. When you look one way, the trees are black and forbidding against the sunset, but when you look the other way, they are lit gold and silver against the dark. What you see, depends on how you look at it.
Thanks to some good honest talking with my best friend (my partner, actually), I have pulled myself out of a rut and gone from being absolutely terrified and miserable about my future, to being utterly excited about it. Fear to exhilaration. Nothing has changed except my point of view.
I appreciate this cannot apply to all people or all situations – what can? – but most of the time we are our own worst enemies. Nobody tells us what we can’t do more often than ourselves. Another friend prompted me recently with “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
So, this is me encouraging you to try and let go of your fears, and look at the world a different way. Because what looks dark, might also be beautiful.
Upside down is also good :)
[Insert long boring preamble here] Various circumstances have come together and inspired me to, finally, share something people have been begging me (begging me) to share for a very long time: my very special chocolate cake recipe. I only make this cake for birthdays and special occasions, and the best bit about it is it is both gluten and dairy free, so can be eaten by many people who would otherwise be left chewing sadly on a dry flapjack. This recipe is not entirely my own – all the best recipes are shared and adapted, after all – it was given to me many years ago by a professional cake maker called Grace, who in turn adapted it from somewhere else. I have since added my own variations, but we still call it Grace’s Chocolate Cake in this house. As you are not in this house, you can call it what you like.
This is a great cake for birthdays, as it comes out fairly flat, so is easy to decorate.
Surround yourself with crazy people, inspiring people, funny people, lovely people, and remember that you can be, and probably are without realising it, that to someone else.
I have been asked a few times ‘What do you do all day?’ This, as Samwise Gamgee discovered once, is the kind of question that requires “a week’s answer or none”. So it’s usually none. But hey, if you’re interested, read on (it will take less than a week, I promise).
Lunch break, dahling! Renoir paints my typical day.
I work from home, and while I’d love this to be a simple 9-5, or even 9-3, with a break to meet my girlfriends for a latte and organic ciabatta in the park, followed by playing educational games with my children before rustling up a healthy tea with some fresh ingredients from the local Italian deli, it never really pans out that way.
I no longer wear a poppy on my lapel, any more than I wear my heart on my sleeve. It does not mean I don’t care, nor that I don’t care to remember, but I am angry that this opiate poppy of the masses has become a platitude. When the politicians can stand at the Cenotaph with their sad faces and scarlet poppies, who just weeks ago shook hands all round at an international arms fair, how can ‘wearing a poppy’ mean anything? I remember that people lose lives and minds and limbs in wars their politicians tell them to fight, that families are torn apart, that my son’s best friend lives with the fear that daddy might not come home again. And I look at the poppy on the PM’s lapel, and I do see blood, but it isn’t his. The poppy was supposed to make us remember, but I think it’s helping us to forget. And if seeing me daring not to wear one makes someone sputter in outrage, then good. Remember what it stands for now?
Uncivilisation. A weekend of exploring “cultural engagement which is rooted in place, time and nature”. A weekend of people, music, story, song, fire and playfulness. A weekend where I learned so damn much about the world around me, and about myself. And apart from the bit about “I can’t use Google-maps on my phone to navigate my way out of a paper bag” (sorry Jon – it was an adventure!), I liked what I learned!
I was there primarily to share my experiences of The Telling, and encourage others to make a new home for Uncivilisation in the places and communities where they are. And also to build a tree for a midnight Dark Mountain ritual – where a woven willow tree, decorated with dreams and thoughts from whoever wanted to contribute, would be ceremonially burned, to symbolise, I dunno… something. Something unsettling (would you set fire to a tree?), to shake people from their comfort, and release the wild, and the dreams.
[Photo: Bridget McKenzie]
In honesty though, I can’t really tell you much about what Uncivilisation 2013 was like, because I missed most of it, but I can tell you that “missing most of it” didn’t really matter. Continue reading