It’s generally a pretty drab time of year. Autumn has given way to Winter. Grey skies. Short days and long evenings. Cold and damp. Difficult to get on the soil to do much in the garden. Mountains often lost in claggy cloud. Christmas looming. Surrounded by forced jollity. I sometimes think that the only people who genuinely look forward unconditionally to Christmas are those trying to sell us something.
As well as the general greyness and the prospect of Christmas I’m faced with a great backlog of maintenance work on the house: leaking taps; leaking boiler; painting and decorating; purging the back porch of 3 years of detritus …… And on top of all this the mundane, everyday chores: cleaning the loo; dysoning and polishing; cleaning the kitchen …… Things which need doing over and over again forever.
The temptation is to crawl into a hole and pull it in behind me for the winter. This time last year I was looking forward to going to Canada for a month in the Rockies around Christmas. I loved it over there. Looking back now from a claggy, Grey Britain I must admit that in some respects I envy the bears which I didn’t see in the Rockies. I didn’t see them because they go into hibernation when the temperatures plummet and the snows come, emerging only in the Spring. What a great life!
Canada isn’t going to happen again for me this year. So I have started to focus beyond Christmas and have started ruminating about next Summer and going back to Greece. Day dreaming about what I would like to do: fly to Athens and visit Meteora by train; spend some time in the mountains in the Peloponnese; visit Kavala and island-hop down the North Aegean and the Dodecanese; go back to Amorgos and the islands and people I know; walking again in the mountains with the sun on my back and swimming in the Aegean. It’s important and helpful to look ahead to something bright and challenging, lay plans and put things in place.
But it all set me thinking. You can’t live life like that, doing nothing but looking ahead. Life is generally pretty boring and mundane for most people. We have to learn to cope with the humdrum of the here and now. Why should I expect things to be any better for me than anybody else? In fact this morning I read that very thing in Chapter 45 of the book of Jeremiah.
Thinking about it, two practical things struck me. I need to mix the maintenance stuff with doing something creative. And I have to try to draw some satisfaction from doing the boring stuff as well.
The latter is probably the hardest. It’s difficult to knuckle down to cleaning the loo, swapping the kitchen floor, dysoning the stairs and so on. So I’m trying to take a positive attitude towards chores. Same as I did with driving the car. Because a few years ago I was in danger of losing my licence for speeding, I decided I had to slow down. Problem was that I get bored very easily and when I get bored I nod off to sleep. Not good behind the wheel of a car. Driving fast kept me focused. So I set myself the challenge of maximising my fuel consumption. It worked. Applying this to household chores it struck me that I should aim for maximum efficiency and effectiveness, cleaning the kitchen floor in the shortest time while getting it as clean as possible. This fits with my growing obsessiveness about cleanliness, tidiness, orderliness.
There’s plenty of scope for creativity. I have had a rolling 5-year programme in the garden since we moved here in 1975. When I got back from Greece in September I set to to rebuild the unimproved bit of the stone-terracing in the vegetable garden. I now have the start of a herb garden along its edge. On Saturday I completed the rebuilding and replanting of the rhubarb bed. There is more stone terracing to rebuild and new paths to lay, an arch to complete at the entrance to the Greek-style wall around the fruit garden, obelisks to reposition …. and many other creative things in the garden to compensate for the interminable weeding and clearing.
I really must get to grips with making more clocks. I have now sold all my clocks except 3 and I dread people coming across my web site and phoning me up for a clock as a Christmas present as has happened every year since I started making them. I have a couple of sculptures which are part finished and untouched for a few years. And photography is always there. Since I was in Greece last Summer I carry my Canon S95 with me virtually all the time as it fits into rucksack, pocket or hand so easily. I got up this morning to yet another great sunrise over the ridge on the other side of the valley. Sometimes the bright side is there to look on.
Problem is that in the last couple of years, with the exception of photography, the creative urge has left me. I need to get it back.