“I cannot stress enough the perils of your friends marrying or becoming court inventors. One day you are all a society of outlaws, adventurous comrades and companions who will be pushing off somewhere or other when things become tiresome; you have all the world to choose from, just by looking at the map… And then, suddenly, they’re not interested any more. They want to keep warm. They’re afraid of rain. They start collecting big things that can’t fit in a rucksack. They talk only of small things. They don’t like to make sudden decisions and do something contrariwise. Formerly they hoisted sail; now they carpenter little shelves for porcelain mugs.”Moominpappa’s Memoirs by Tove Jansson
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.
Breaking camp in this way always comes with a hop, skip and a jump! All of a sudden everything is different, and if you’re going to move on you’re careful to make use of every single minute, you pull up your tent pegs and douse the fire quickly before anyone can stop you or start asking questions, you start running, pulling on your rucksack as you go, and finally you’re on your way and suddenly quite calm, like a solitary tree with every single leaf completely still. Your camping-site is an empty rectangle of bleached grass. Late in the morning your friends wake and say: he’s gone away, autumn’s coming.Moominvalley in November by Tove Jansson
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