Yesterday, I spent twelve hours taking apart my old, rickety bookcases, dusting and cleaning the books, and putting them all on their shiny, new bookcases. This morning, walking into the sitting room was a bit like getting up the day after you’ve decorated the house for Christmas.
One of the mistakes the tech stan makes is assuming more is always an improvement. That we always want more features, more apps, more enhancements. But when you have a well-functioning technology, often what you want is less.Maybe the Book Doesn’t Need to Be “Disrupted” in the First Place? by Lincoln Michel, 24th January 2023
I am resurfacing from a busy few days, including hosting a party for about eighteen children to celebrate Auri’s fourth birthday. Well, I say hosting – Euan actually organised the whole thing. Apart from a few on-the-day things, my sole contribution was sorting the party bags. Even at the party, I mostly looked after Elfi who, mercifully, slept peacefully until the cake was brought out (and even then fed quietly without fuss).
And don’t even ask me how Auri is four already.
Auri is an avid reader. She loves being read to, and she loves reading on her own. Almost every night without fail, you can guarantee she’ll get out of bed after we’ve wished her goodnight to keep choosing more and more books. By this time, Euan will already have read her several stories (every night when I’m feeding Elfi, I hear Auri make promises that the next book will be the last one, only for cries of “but only one mooooooooore!” when that book is finished).
When we kitted out her room with new furniture a year or two ago, I made sure that Auri could access her books easily, as that was one thing that was always so important to me growing up. Of course, it does mean that occasionally you enter the bedroom – at any time of day – to find an avalanche of stories has descended upon the carpet.
I have started reading Tove Jansson: Life, Art, Words by Boel Westin. Again.
The book had been on my reading list since it was first published, and on the shelf beneath my bedside table for nearly as long. I started reading it last year – or was it the year before, now? – and managed a few chapters, distracted, before life got in the way and it languished there by my bed for a while, then beneath my bedside table once again.
Reading it now – it feels disingenuous to say “re-reading” – I have no memory whatsoever of chunks of the chapters that I waded thickly through before. This time, I am absorbing everything, and it slips down easily. Not like before. I wanted to read the book – I had wanted to read it for a while – but the noise of the world meant that it stuck in my throat. I couldn’t absorb it, digest it.
I am exhausted. I can’t actually remember when I last slept through a whole night, what with a newborn baby and pregnancy-related insomnia before that. And a pre-schooler, and a dog who insists on stealing most of the space on the bed every night.
But that’s just physical tiredness, and par for the course right now. All-encompassing at times, yes, but bone-deep tiredness is always better than brain-deep tiredness. And, to my delight, I am increasingly finding myself in the marvellous situation of no longer feeling fuzzy around the edges when thinking. Every newsless day that goes past, I feel a little more alive. Sparks of clear thought are becoming more frequent, and I’m scribbling down ideas to ponder or develop further.
In the beginning, there were Japanese microseasons. The first post on this site was made when, depending on your translation and reference source, “dew glistens white on grass”. Now, “springs thaw” and soon, “pheasants start to call”.
The site had been a thought in development for several years by the time it first went live. We had chosen the name Elosa for our shared home before we moved in, way back in August 2017, being as it was a shared representation of our names at the time: a half-initialism, a half-acronym. Euan, Lydia and Osa. It’s what we call our current home, and it will be what we call our next home.
In the years that followed, our family changed shape. Osa became Ghost Osa, remaining an ever-present entity in our family. Scapa and Araucaria, or Auri for short, came along. By pure accident, as I realised later, their names moulded Elosa into a true acronym, based on all of our initials.
Now, we are Elosae. Elowen arrived on the 8th of December, thoughtfully letting me attend her sister’s Nativity two nights previously before kickstarting proceedings with my waters breaking at midnight. A day and some later, there she was: bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and bigger than her sister had been when she arrived (nearly four years ago, now) by more than a third again. Our little Elowen, or Elfi for short.
Auri adores Elfi, which is fortunate. So far, she has resented none of the changes made to accommodate her new sibling, and delights in showing her off to anyone and everyone, certain in that way that pre-schoolers are that everyone will be as interested and besotted as she is.
When the tree and the Christmas decorations were taken down last Friday, we moved my desk into the sitting room. Not simply an aesthetic choice, though I love my hand-crafted, bespoke desk: during my maternity leave, I will be spending the majority of my waking hours in this room with Elfi, so having my desk and all its accompanying paraphernalia to hand for any snatched spare moments (as this one is, right now) was a practical choice, too.
As I type, Elfi is asleep in her crib next to me. She is already filling the Moses Basket more than Auri did a few months in. It’s strange to see her in clothes than Auri wore when she was so much further along.
Now, as I type here, I can glance down at my sleeping baby. Wander across the sitting room – suddenly spacious after the good madness of Christmas – and finish off my cup of tea in a kitchen slightly smoky from the treacle-burnt ham fresh out of the oven.Notebook, 7th January 2023
When Auri was born, she was definitely a Bowditch. So many people commented on how much she looked like Euan or members of his family. On my side, she most closely looked like two of my sisters, Holly and Diff, though I see me in her when she smiles her mischievous smile, full of devilment. Straight out of the family photograph album.
Elfi, on the other hand, was born the spitting image of me when I was a baby, complete with dark hair, so she is definitely a Crow. Out of all my siblings, I am the one who has always taken most after my mother, and members of my family have said how much Elfi looks like my Granddad George (my mum’s dad), so she is also very much a Temperton.
Looking at photos of Auri in the same basket, though, Auri and Elfi share so much in how they look. It’s so strange, noticing all these differences and similarities as they each forge their own way, announcing and stamping their own individuality on the world and all who sail in her.
It seems strange that Elfi, a day short of five weeks, is already living through her eighth microseason. Bears have started hibernating. Deers have shed antlers. Parsley has flourished.
So much, so soon, life comes rushing at us.
At the beginning of this year, I stopped reading and browsing news. I have had breaks before and it improved, well, everything. This time, I hardly even feel guilty about not being engaged, not being aware or informed. Family and friends will let me know if there is anything I need to know. And, if they don’t, I’m sure it will work out. My energies – and their energies, too – are better spent elsewhere.
That – alongside re-evaluating my relationship with my somewhat needy mobile – has meant I’ve already been reading more. Currently, one of the books I am reading is Tove Jansson: Life, Art, Words, the authorised biography by Boel Westin. Reading about her family, you can see the blueprint for what Jansson might become was scribbled from the start, from the earliest of days – but nobody would suspect she would forge, announce and stamp herself on the world as she did.
It is such a responsibility, growing young women: so hard to get right the balance between encouraging, inspiring, providing opportunity and advocating a little too much for a certain path. Auri is so sharp, so observant, blowing out of the water with her analytic curiosity all those phrases we use which don’t really make sense, and making me look at everything afresh and reconsider all that has become engrained over the last four decades. Elfi is at that early and delightfully honest stage, all snuffles and contented murmuring, and then scrunched up faces and immediate vocalisations of discontent if she is not entirely happy. I am learning and re-learning so much from both of them. And, as long as that is the case, perhaps that is what will ensure I, too, grow with the seasons.
This post isn’t what I thought it would be. There were other Things To Say, perhaps announcements to make. If I’d had the chance to sit down and write it in one sitting, blindly type in a furious fit of literary passion, perhaps it would have stayed the way I originally envisaged it. But that would also mean that I would have lost something, that I wouldn’t have let time and reflection reshape what I thought had to be written and guide me in a different direction.
This feels important, this observation and diverted path bringing a sense of relief. It emphasises the strength in not-knowing and growing.
After all, as the beloved Too-ticky once said, “All things are so very uncertain, and that’s exactly what makes me feel reassured.”
Merry, Merry New Year, one and all. May 2023 treat you and yours kindly.
Today is Christmas Decorating Day – a little earlier than usual this year for imminent going-into-labour reasons.
Yesterday, I spent half a day Furniture Juggling. That annual task, where you try to figure out what needs moving where to fit in the Christmas Tree for the next few weeks. It’s even harder this year, given Auri’s room is being commandeered as a guest room for the festive season, and we have an extra member of the family (and all that means, trappings-wise) joining us.
Nevertheless, I successfully managed it, with only a handful of wooden bird carvings and Euan’s massive wooden pestle and mortar he brought back from Central America (Costa Rica, perhaps? Or was it Guatemala?) going in the loft for a while.
Of course, the real challenge is finding places for the books I’ve usurped from their usual place on one of the side-tables. I think I’ve managed to surreptitiously squirrel them away in appropriate places, hoping to avoid more amused comments from Euan about precisely how many books I accumulate…
‘My own dear little Linnet! You’ve found her bracelet! Tell me where it was?’
‘She put it round the squirrel’s neck. It looked marvellous there, all glittery in the fur.’The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston
A family favourite, made even more special by the recipe being from Euan’s original early 1980s Sesame Street Annual.
It was the time between the lights when colours undergo their intensification and purples and golds burn in window-panes like the beat of an excitable heart; when for some reason the beauty of the world revealed and yet soon to perish […], the beauty of the world which is so soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Sometimes people never saw things clearly until it was too late and they no longer had the strength to start again. Or else they forgot their idea along the way and didn’t even realise that they had forgotten.The Summer Book by Tove Jansson