Last week, a difficult choice had to be made between two alternatives. We are not talking Craig or Connery. The dilemma was not chocolate or pistachio. No, this was serious grown up stuff. The absolute decision process weighed heavily on my mind; this was sort that we have to make from time to time, the sort where there is no option but to choose a or b, and even though the outcome will have major life affecting consequences involving several people, I alone had to make the final call, and abrogation from the process was completely impossible. A timely conclusion was necessary, and although plenty of advice had been sought, the responsibility for this onerous task laid squarely at my feet.
The Artist, aware of my imminent responsibilities, reminded me of the need for an ultra clear head in order to achieve the best possible conclusion. This he said, was no time for mulling things over indoors, this was a time for striding out, into the spring sunshine. He declared that the only way to get to an end result was to pull on designer wellies and get outside. Actually, I think he was just bored and wanted to go for a walk.
It is so easy to stop doing the things that help us when we are pushed up against it. We all know that we function best on a healthy diet, plenty of sleep and exercise, and exposure to the open air and sunshine. Ironically, the first thing that usually happens when we feel overwhelmed is to let these things go.
Most people use comfort food or alcohol as a buffer to stress. It’s often considered easier to reach for processed snacks than to shop and prepare fresh food, especially when the pressure is on. But the easiest way to feel great and in control is from within. A diet packed with nutritious fruit and vegetables makes a massive difference to mindset. Sinking a bottle of wine won’t help either. It may help take your mind of the dilemma at the time, but that situation is going nowhere, and the next day, you still have the same thing, only now you also have a headache.
Absorbing Vitamin D from the sun enhances well-being and positivity almost immediately. The process of walking allows thinking time. It is the most effective tonic for the soul I can possibly think of, and all that it costs you is your time.
So there I was, reluctant to leave the important thinking I had to do, harrumphing into my hat and coat and bundled out the door by the kindly Artist, keen to point out the masses of snowdrops, wild primulae and narcissi against the huge camellias at the end of my very own garden, just before the little gate that leads to farmland beyond. These are the flowers of optimism, the first we see after the barren winter, and we do nothing to encourage them; they simply arrive, brightly and generously, forgiving lack of attention, unlike their demanding summer cousins who insist on diva like maintenance, spring flowers just appear because they want to. I beamed at the sight of this utterly joyful display; taking in the bobbing heads of the snowdrops and the acid yellow of the daffodils like the gifts they truly are.
The giant waxy buds of the magnolia present a salient reminder that perhaps we should give the best of ourselves first; precocious blooms poised to burst into life among bare branches. I love the pared back elegance of delicate flower contrasted against gnarled bark. Bold can indeed be beautiful, and the toughness and resilience of these spring flowers makes them all the more so. The end of winter tends to drag, and despondency may creep in, but just at the point that it is felt most keenly, the emergence of perfect blooms on weather-beaten trees perhaps brings to mind that there is always another chance, and always another spring.
We passed through the little gate, and continued down the path, towards the farm. I was starting to feel much better, and began to enjoy the brief hiatus from the burdensome responsibility of my decision-making obligation. I allowed myself to unwind, and delighted in the gloopy earth squelching beneath my rubber boots. Onwards we went; following the tractor marks in the mud, concentrating on staying upright.
We talked of this and that, and that and this, and then turned a corner to find a field full of steers! There must have been at least thirty beasts, and they were all looking in our direction. Now for those of us who are not country-born, these are young castrated bulls, their destiny to become beef. “I cannot go there!” I declared. This was one of the easier decisions I had to make that day. “Why ever not?” said the bewildered but patient Artist, who is used to my strange superstitions and has more than enough of his own. “Karma!” I cried. “They are all staring at me! They know!” I was not feeling the guilt of one too many burgers, but the fact that my family are butchers, and I was quite sure these babies knew it. “They can sense it!” I wailed. “It doesn’t matter that I have a chakra-aligning lentil and goji berry salad waiting at home for lunch – these guys want revenge!”
The unflappable Artist pointed out that we both had sticks, and that all we had to do was wave them about a bit and they would go away. I decided (again without much agonising) that I could detect bovine malevolence in their eyes. They wanted to make an example of me; retribution for several Sunday roasts. Payback for eagerly consumed prime rib. He said the cows/bulls/steers/oxen (delete as appropriate, I remain unconvinced) knew none of it. They were not interested in my carnivorous past, or the family trade. I was almost convinced, I mean, he IS from the country after all, so I went on a little further, only to find TWO more, lurking behind a tree, with obvious intent. No. The only thing to do was to slowly but purposefully cut back and then across the perfectly un-sinister field of harvested barley.
I can’t begin to describe how wonderfully mood uplifting it was, walking across a field without cattle. Soon I was almost skipping to keep up with the long stride of the Artist who didn’t mind a bit that we had to change course. I even spotted wild pansies growing against all the odds. All experiences are stimulating, and this one was exactly that, and helped me to get a very clear head and enjoy a most productive afternoon.
As for the big decision? I got there in the end. I wish to give thanks to those who love me and have been there for me. Some of them are very close indeed although they are actually really quite far away.