Horizon at Sandy Point

Saturday, January 19, 2013

New habits for old

What's your new year's resolution?
Duh, hmmm ... mind goes blank.
The mists of the future, how true. 20/20 hindsight! This day is all we have to work with.
Looking back, I see patterns, places where small changes have taken me in different directions with larger - or expanding - consequences; where I have left old habits behind. So I have stopped making resolutions; instead I look for places where the path diverges.

When the sun comes peeping through the trees on the hill ... a new day, a jouvay!
Take exercise for instance.
I grew up a bookworm - thin and leggy by sheer luck and genes.
Work was all I needed for exercise. Or so I thought for many many years of long hours at publishing advertising and communications jobs. Then children - oh yes, they keep you moving - to carry, lift, chase after, play with. Cooking, washing, cleaning a house, surely enough to keep one body going.

But many years of working mom (aka super-mom) behaviour always take a toll. In fact any activities that are repetitive, taken to extreme and  habitual become detrimental - think about it - not just smoking, drinking, liming, work work work, tv watching, facebooking... All habits have the potential to become addictions - things or activities that we think we can't live without. The key to cultivating new habits is "without expectation" - to take the one step that is the start of the thousand mile journey with no preconceptions. Be conservative not extravagant, be not wasteful, go lightly on the earth, be flexible in body and mind, be open.

Six years ago, I entered a gym for the first time - old hand-me-down gym shoes a talking point ("you want to send those back to Nike, they might give you a new pair?") -  ascended a treadmill, gripped small weights, pushed and pulled on machines, stretched muscles long gone slack. It was a revelation. A year ago I left the gym, made a new resolution to take a daily walk - the dog helped. In the beginning, the activity always feels like so many new choices - what time should we walk? is it going to rain? is the downhill path slippery? are the shoes dry? is there something else that should be done now? Today, not quite a year later, there's the dog, the leash, the path.

The dog and the leash: are we walking, or are we dawdling?
The walk itself brings the opportunity to see something - some small thing - that you didn't see before. Mostly it's garbage - the plastic bottle, the fast food box carelessly discarded. But when the sun is just peeping over the Gasparillo hill, slanting straight into the eyes, you hear the parrots screeching - more likely than not in twos, the yellowtails cawing and floating into or out of the nest. Corbeaux sunning their priestly wings. A small owl with a damaged wing taking its last breaths. Lungs open up and smells come in, the faint rank of some small animal,  someone's stew or bread...
Sniff sniff - is it 'gouti or 'guana, manicou or something else?

Yes, aromas from the neighbour's pot waft everywhere in a small community. Just weeks ago, as a community, we contacted an organisation that is willing to pick up recyclables - cans, glass, plastic, paper and cardboard. All that's required of the individual is to sort rinsed and dry items into bags. Maybe five or six households have bothered. For the others,  how not do-able could this be? Sure, it's easy to toss everything in one big smelly bag. But what if - there's no big garbage heap to take all the nasties, certainly not the ocean, and maybe nowhere on the land. All it takes is a thought and an intention: that everything that's used can be sent somewhere with someone in mind.

And there's now a green market in the valley community - another opportunity, another fork in the road.

Now, the new year is getting old already. After Christmas, it comes upon us too swiftly. So I turn my thoughts to the Chinese new year. That starts in February - 4th is the date, but 10th is the celebratory weekend. It's the year of the water snake, a sign of wisdom and grace. It's time to learn to live as part of the environment, not apart.

The key - and such a tiny one it is - to making and keeping new resolutions is substitution. What old beliefs must die; what habit will you phase out; and what will you replace these with, what small step in which different direction will you take, and so doing who will you take with you. The dog is a start!

Resident corbeaux in the bois canot tree
Two years ago, these blogs - and were started. Some of the most popular have been the blogs about places visited, about gardens, about culture or food; there are readers sometimes in India and Russia! How amazing is that!

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