Do you have Internet problems sometimes?
It is so incredibly annoying, isn’t it? To discover upon rising early with good intentions for the day ahead, you can’t get on with the immediate tasks facing you because your connection dropped off the radar!
Try living on a narrow boat with an off-grid mobile Internet connection and you might have to learn the art of standing on your head, performing a double flip backwards and fixing back on the arms and legs that just snapped off in your angst, as you stretch and groan under the strain to reach into places you should never go! Pushing wires through vent holes- hot with rage and ranting about the inconvenience of a technological world!
Or you can prepare your choices in advance, (like me- the second time this happened). Chill and chow down on a blade of grass, while you accept- life is a little different now.
I test the Internet when we first arrive in this lovely woodland location. My faithful connection speed checker registers ‘4 mbps’ then dives downward to zero, as I trot up and down the canal towpath this way and that, thrusting my phone high in the air while trying to recover its performance. But far from showing a much-desired upwards surge; its revival is not going well. The great lime-stone quarry surrounding me, which blocks my mobile signal, is here to stay.
This drives me to my pre-planned but early morning evacuation- a car ride out to my Mum’s house a few miles up the road, so I can begin and end my workday. For an on-line teacher, today it’s a necessity! So in my hurry I push the washing up to one side, grab my bags and slide the damp, cold hatch cover back. Then step out in my giant muddy boots with my neat laptop, zip up the boat awning and tread, a little tentative, across a wet and slippery pontoon- so as not to start the day sprawled on my back with a dislocated limb, or worse- a dive into the icy canal.
The first perfect pure white snowdrops light up a wet and early, dark morning of deep puddles and sloppy wet mud on the woodland pathway. They are tiny lamps showing the way. Popping up like magic-they weren’t there yesterday. These graceful and drooping teardrops forecast aloud, ‘Spring is here, at last!’
A little further on the path a yellow daffodil, just one.
Wet, fresh, alive, but with a sting! This is living! It is as if I have woken up from, a long unconsciousness, like the slow uncurling foliage. What was stagnant is now invigorated, and the icy wind, the frozen wet rain, runs down my face, waking me up with uncomfortable urgency and slaps me with glory and life!
Would you contemplate such an early stroll in the frosty, dark rain, living in your typical house? No! Not likely! Unless you’re one of those jogging junkies! Now, don’t catch cold, you slip back down into your safe, silk, warm duvet and dream some more! However, you might miss a resplendent moment, like this early awakening- a memory I cherish-now scribed as by an artist with a sharp pen, etched deep into my mind. My story is, each day a new, broken from regime and conventions, ever changing; exciting! But my way of life is also inconvenient, uncomfortable, unpredictable, risky, and scary too. The woods are dark and silent, as all alone and with a torch I stumble.
But choice of occupation, is the crux of many a would be boater. Retired people live their dream. Holidaymakers out for a day or two, sip wine at the stern, while he dons a sailor’s hat and she sits at the bow, reading a delightful book. But a few of us are still young enough to be working. So this takes some planning and a little creative thought.
I was cheerful to leave behind the 8am till 10pm duty of teaching for half salary, although why did it take an illness to persuade me?
My artistic personality, however, is now driving me to more exciting places- writing, reading, illustration, painting… I’m learning anew, like a child with so many questions.
I notice this in my companion too. He follows a more mathematical pathway, but we are both sitting here, tapping away at keyboards, fine lining an illustration or writing with new found enthusiasm, sitting next to the calm and peace of the water, wildfowl and trees. Here, work is pleasure- as productive as honey bees in a hive and as synchronised as two calling songbirds returning to each other their repeat serenades!
Newfound knowledge opens a door- I’m a two-year-old again! All those questions-What? Where? Who? How? When? Which? Why?… It’s FUN! What is this zeal that lay dormant so long? Is it the divine force of God, who placed us on a boat because he knows us better than we know ourselves? A child’s dummy- finally, I trust but part reluctant, now that I’m all grown-up- I drop it into the bin. The rug pulled from under our feet. The warm duvet with rude manner- whipped away. Thrown abrupt into a world full of risk. I ask, is there a way to both work and play? We pull in our ropes and tug-tug along the canal to the mantra of the two-week stay deadline. Resilience doesn’t form while we are warm and too comfortable. It grows through overcoming discomfort or pain- stretching us and moulding us into something more chiseled and refined.
The school education system emphasises, ‘a need to build resilience in children’- alas, resilience is nowhere to be found! Instead, we wrap our little ones in swathes of cotton wool, giving in to their faddy protests and stamping tantrums. They grow but don’t grow up! They expect the world to give to them, but don’t give back. We cultivate a virus-a culture of blame and greed. Law suits and protests. It is a generation with no direction who bury their heads deep in the sand when the tiniest of trouble arises! A ship of fools sailing this way and that, before a calamity befalls them and they sink. They can’t swim!
Next time your Internet connection drops out, take some time out to consider your own connection-with yourself. Relax, your regular day crashes down before you, but there are greater things to discover! Yes, have your tea and toasted cinnamon bagels or a smoky bacon butty. Then, get up, get dressed and go out!
Do you still recognize that feeling as a small child long ago- when you first woke? You leap out of bed and dash to greet every morning- you’re excited!- but not on a school day. A great big adventure! So embrace- Your New Dawn! Look, what’s out there? Chat to friends and neighbours-not online. Feel both your pain and joy- ‘OW! Whoopee!’ When did you last laugh? Take some risks. How far can you jump? Can you fly yet? What’s on your bucket list? Life is brief, as a momentary breeze blows through the tall, winding mountains; here, then gone! What do you do? Climb on the wind as it passes, quick, let it take you by chance, to unexplored places.
Or you can be like a fish in the canal, who every once in a blue cloudless sky, pops his head out to see sunlight. He never knows the world outside, beyond the tank that confines him. Living in this dark water bowl, he knows not of the freedom we possess, and as they drain the stagnating pond, he flips and flops around, thrashing his tail and curling up-a resistant demonstration, until someone kind, lifts him out and places him in fresh waters. And so, I finish the washing-up. The sink plug pulls out with a glug and a gurgle, the water circles in a clockwise direction, diminishes- runs out and as I gaze down the deep black hole I wonder…
What kind of life will you choose?