Gifts of the Moment

Walking along the fence of the allotment, a window opens into something like deep, foraging time. Walking carefully, steadily, gaze turned towards the edible potential to my left, with senses open to the wider environment. Calm, content, alert, I could keep going like this all afternoon. What is it that makes me think of an ancestor gathering berries into a container woven of grass, a hundred thousand years ago? The imagination renders this moment both less and more significant than usual. Gentle warm wind, intense brightness when clouds give way – a gift this late in the summer.

There is a mild burning at the inside of my third finger where it was touched by nettles and the rubbing with dock leaf hasn’t completely taken it away. A “be careful” message enlivening the skin. Thorns are ready to rip into my scarf, which I hold close to my body. There is barbed wire too and you have to reach a little further at this time of the year to get to the last crop of blackberries. Aware of the whole body, the reach, balance, in-breath, contact with the fruit, careful release, exhale. Some of them are too soft to come off the branch whole and dark, sticky red juice runs down the fingers into the palm. Others are too firm and don’t yield to a probing tuck. They are for later, or for others, whose anonymous presence replaces the “wanting for one-self.”

A sense of plenitude, gratitude. There is still this, despite the acidifying of the oceans, the diminishing of species variety. There is, in fact always only this moment.  My mother is coming near the end of her life. It brings that familiar conundrum more strongly into focus: follow drive and ambition or relax into insightful contentment? What is it that will matter at the end of our span, give a sense of satisfaction; of a life well-lived; that will let us go from this world gracefully? For me, just now there is little doubt about the value of taking this time out from working on my autumn programme at the computer, to fill a small plastic tub with the last of the brambles, my scratched skin absorbing that strong, clear September sun.

We stayed with wealthy friends in West London last week who enjoy a degree of luxurious comfort that makes our flat seem like student accommodation, decades behind. (“Isn’t our society’s addiction to progress sheer madness when you think of deep time” another part of me chucks in at this point.) The cleanliness also, of both the inside and outside of the cupboards! An inner critic makes itself heard for a while, taking issue with the relative lack of my material achievements. “What does she want for me?” my friend Kanya in Thailand and I explore in a mindful skype peer coaching session. Among other interesting insights, we come to the conclusion that she wants me to feel like a “valued playmate.” The critic relaxed when she saw how her intention for me is already realised, at least to some extent, and particularly in the present moment.

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