My alarm goes off around 7.30 am, regardless of what day it is at the moment. I know mum does not get up for at least another hour, so this is MY time, time to reflect and time to enjoy the splendour of nature at my own pace.
It has been a hectic, sometimes stressful and confusing year for me so far. Hence why you have not seen much action here either. After a fairly uneventful Summer I travelled from Australia, into Spring in the Netherlands mid March, where my cousin was waiting for me to help her get organised, in case a bad situation would eventuate with my elderly mum, to be prepared for everything. We found a fitting nursing home with a large garden and arranged as much as I could fit in the 4 weeks I stayed, like meal deliveries, meetings with care staff, doctors etc., to keep her living independently as long as possible, along with spending time with mum as well.
Upon returning home in Australia late April I got a phone call the next day, still groggy from jet lag, after which I found myself working an extra 5 nights a week, while trying to catch up in my garden at home and get that ready for my absence during Winter and work in the nursery part time! Well, no rest over Winter either, with record snowfalls, more lodge guests than ever, and keeping my promise from last year to my manager then, of attending more ski training this season! I had to leave a week before closing of the lifts, to fly back to the Netherlands for mum, who had deteriorated badly over their unusually hot Summer.
So here I am, finding myself utterly confused after Summer followed by Spring, followed by Winter and now in Autumn, but thankfully healthy and well. Something I unfortunately cannot say about my mum, who is physically doing very well, but mentally in need of full time support.
I swiftly throw on my ‘trackies’, hoodie and sneakers, over my pyjamas to keep the chill of the early morning out and quietly sneak out of the door. I am so glad mum chose to live at the edge of a small town in the Netherlands, from where it only takes me a few minutes to walk the street that brings me to the paddocks showing the Sunrise in full glory. I savour the wide open space, still in peace and quiet this early in the morning, especially during the weekends when work traffic is absent.
When I walk I focus on my surrounds, nature waking up along with myself and my body. It is easy to get sidetracked during the day and fall into bad habits in regards to posture, but during the stillness of the morning it is easier to focus on walking with a straighter back and shoulders relaxed in the right spot, arms swinging loosely in harmony with my stride. It feels so good to take a deep breath full of life’s most important energy that somehow feels more rejuvenating at this hour than the rest of the day.
I take many deep breaths during the day as well, but most are for the purpose of keeping my sanity and composure while mum asks me the same question for the 30th time in an hour and still fails to understand my calm explanation. She easily gets upset when this happens and I find myself repeating to her many times that it is ok and that all is organised and will work out just fine.
I know she just hasn’t got the synapses to connect the dots any more as dementia is slowly stealing her mental abilities. I also know that giving her an answer calmly with love is important, despite the seeming pointlessness, because she will ask me again in a few minutes. Important, for it gives her a feeling of being heard, loved and respected. I am sure she feels that I care for her as she still treats me like her daughter, even though she gets confused and thinks I am still in Australia, and much younger than in reality, lol, if only… Occasionally she believes me, mostly she puts her ‘stubborn hat’ on and is convinced I am telling her fibs. Reality does not make the same sense to her as it used to.
The way I mentally deal with the current situation is reminding myself of the old quote a Buddhist monk told me, that if I CAN do something about it there is no need to worry and if I CANNOT, why worry? Another one that helps me mentally is from Wayne Dyer, that it is NOT the situation or circumstances that stress people out, but the thoughts created about it. I take one step at a time and file my upcoming responsibilities in my phone, which gives me a beep when something pops up that needs attention.
The one thing that still cheers her up and takes her away from her worries and suspicions that everyone is out to deceive her is Nature. She really calms down and comes home a different person. I am so glad about this, as it is so good to see her marvel at it’s beauty too when we go for an afternoon stroll in the nearby forests on the milder days. It is ‘nature therapy’ for both of us! We stop and look at the many mushrooms showing themselves and we walk the leaf covered paths surrounded by old deciduous trees in beautiful Autumn colours. Something I have not seen much of in the last 15 years when I have always visited around her birthday in Spring.
We pick up a few treasures to take home and arrange in a shallow pottery dish on the table, acorns, pine cones, a few leaves and a tiny feather she found with the most vibrant blues. I take photo’s of the mushrooms, better left in peace where they are. Besides, my knowledge of them is insufficient to know which ones are safe to pick, let alone any names.
She still walks unaided and really well for her 87 years, but I am carefully monitoring her gait to see whether we should keep going, or returning to the car soon. Surprisingly she generally knows her way around quite well, despite being bad in many other ways. It is a blessing now that she moved back to the area where she grew up when dad was still with us, because she retained a lot of her older memories so far.
Mushroom coming up among Autumn leaves
I am always fascinated with these little surprises of nature, here one day, gone the next. Perhaps it is the shortening days and decay all around that makes me feel melancholic. For a moment I think about the issues at hand and cannot help but see the fleetingness of all we take for granted. A hint to make the most of, and be grateful for each day we are blessed to experience.
Mushroom covered tree trunk, found off the beaten track
Spotted these red and white ones only on passing a second time, surprisingly, as they are quite striking
I ponder about memories, which are not much different. As we walk along our lives we collect and grow them, we treasure and share them, but when decay sets in with old age, they are like the falling leaves of Autumn, we drop them slowly one by one on still days, or many at once when a storm hits….
I am so GLAD that my own ‘tree’ still has many leaves that, for now, are securely attached.
Leaf covered road
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