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Welcome to the Blog for March, 2020

News and Views on Ageing
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Day five of solitude March 31st, 2020

hens on path

 Another cold morning but a beautiful sunrise over the  Dart valley. This morning the hens had laid four  eggs, could be that I missed one last evening or the  or two ladies are getting busy. We have seven hens  of which possibly three are actually laying and the  others are in very happy retirement.

 This morning I spent an hour coppicing hazel for  bean poles while another of our group made  wigwams so that they will be in place when the  beans go out in May. Later in the morning I spent  some time splitting and stacking logs, some of the  wood was larch with a beautiful golden grain and  piney resinous smell.

 I was checking out how I’m feeling and have to say,  at the moment, I am enjoying spending time alone and being quieter. It struck me quite recently that I tend to talk to much! I’m also aware of how fast time flies and yet each day is spacious and full of delightful ordinary happenings. On the way to put the hens to bed this evening I noticed how bright and luminous the primroses are at sunset. Every ordinary thing is so special!

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Monday Morning

Day four of solitude March 30th, 2020

veg garden

 Awake before dawn and up at 6:30, the hens were  reluctant to venture out into the cold morning air  much preferring to huddle together on their perch.  One egg.

 Spent a couple of hours mowing grass around the  top garden and around the grounds. Pushing the  mower as it's little two-stroke engine does the work  is great exercise and a pleasure. All the cuttings get  addded to the compost of which there is never  enough. The garden looks somewhat tidier and will  be more so when the bed edges have been trimmed.

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First Sunday in Solitude

Early morning peace March 29th, 2020


 From where I am there is an unreality about the  current emergency, the birds sing, the flowers grow,  leaves appear on the trees, the wind blows and the  virus seems a very long way from here. For now.

 I woke up this morning at silly o’clock to the stars  shining through my window; 4:30 am and all still but  for the wind in the trees – back to sleep. Coffee at  6:30 am and a news check before dressing and  going out to feed the cats, let the hens out and give  them their corn. A cold north easterly wind ensured  that I was fully awake.

 After a breakfast of porridge with banana, seeds and  dried fruit I spent an hour splitting and stacking logs, it’s a bit like weightlifting combined with supermarket shelf filling when there’s only one irregular shaped product to stack.

We gave ourselves the weekend off so today is one of relaxing, reading and napping.

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A Typical Day in Solitude

Never really alone! March 28th, 2020

wood anemone

 I wake up around 5:15am, oblute, make coffee and  return to bed. Read the news on the tablet, I like to  read the Guardian once a day at least in order to  remind myself how lucky I am and to not take things  for granted.

 At 6:30 I make breakfast and another coffee then,  this week, I light the boiler and wheel-barrow logs to  the boiler room. Next week my early morning task will  be looking after the cats and hens.

 At 8:30 I Zoom in to the morning meditation and  sharing from my room, usually we also discuss the  day ahead.

From 9:30 we carry out various tasks for a couple of hours, last week we deep-cleaned all the bedrooms, the bathrooms and the drying room. Next week we will be working in the garden, together but at safe distance apart.

Lunch for the non-solitudians is at 1:00PM and I cook a light meal at 2:00PM. After lunch we are in our own time.

Around 6:00pm I light the boiler again. I cook my main meal of the day at 7:00PM and later meditate and/or listen to a teaching or join a sitting group via Zoom. Most evenings I find time to listen to music and I am usually in bed by 10:00, I read a novel untill 11:00pm and then sleep.

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Splendid Solitude

Reframing Self-isolation March 26th, 2020

snail on leaf, Dart Valley, Sharpham Estate, near Totnes

 From tonight I go into splendid solitude as one our  group goes to work in the NHS. Given my age, and  despite being as fit as a fiddle, it is the responsible  thing for me to do. Like a lot of people we will be  using technology to hold us together and, weather  permitting, will be working in the garden at safe  distances as well having expanded sitting circles on  the lawn. I will report on how my life of solitude  progresses but I know that I am very lucky to be in  the middle of over 500 acres of Devon countryside  and have no need of the town.

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Dealing With Difficulties

Sometimes Thinking Does Not Help March 21st, 2020

bird of prey in clear blue sky

 Dealing with difficulty and developing a sense of  calm while what we assumed was reliable crumbles  is fundamental to the practice of meditation. That  doesn’t make it any the less scary but may stop us  from panicking and over reacting in other ways. We  humans are hard wired to imagine the worse case  and in the past that hard wiring was an essential  survival tool but for most of us that is not true today.  If we can slow down and allow ourselves time we  can moderate the ancient instinctive responses that  come from deep within our brains.

 We don’t have to be meditators to spot when we are  off on a catastrophic fantasy or beginning to speed  up unnecessarily. We can stop, and take some deep breaths and take our attention away from our excessive thinking and ground ourselves in awareness of our body breathing, our feet on the earth. We can calmly talk to ourselves in a kindly and soothing manner that engenders a caring attitude as we try to do the best that we can with the tools that we have right now. One useful technique for damping down those growing fears that threaten to engulf us is to ask the question, “Is it real?” and to coolly explore that question either with someone or alone, perhaps using a pencil and paper to jot down what is going on in the mind. Seeing the thoughts on paper may well help to sort them out.

These are difficult times for everyone particularly the elderly who, even if healthy, feel realistically vulnerable. It is important that we reach out to each other in any way that we can so that we may offer and receive support. One way that we can do that is through use of the internet. It seems to me that at last social media and other platforms are able to come into their own and be a social good for the many.

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On a Devon Hill

To the heart joy and grief are one, March 11th, 2020

Gentle hill, Dart Valley, Sharpham Estate, near Totnes

 On this gentle hill I found my voice and have stood  with the sheep around me singing my heart out for  the first time. And it is here that I have let my grief  flow through me and out into the valley.

 Grief for all those things that just didn’t come to me, nbsp;for the failed friendships and relationships, for  neglect of those I should have cared for and for  those who should have cared for me. Grief for family  and heroes who have died. Grief for what could have  been but never will. And grief for our home, the home  of all living beings that we humans appear hell bent  on destroying.

 On this same hill I often stand and gaze out over the river valley and thank my lucky stars, thank the stones on the path that led me here to this place and time where I have begun to uncover who I have been since my beginning. So much joy and sadness held together in one heart.

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