~ Hazel Harps On

Frustrating Waiting …. and Worthwhile Wintering

It’s almost the end of 2020 and wow, hasn’t this year tried our patience?

I can't really (or at least, shouldn't) complain. I’ve been lucky that my small family is OK, but wow, how I've missed music-making with friends! Having lost many years to illness, I now get stupidly stressy when every moment isn’t packed with activity and achievement. I don’t think I’m the only one with this problem. In recent times, in spite of - or perhaps because of - all the help we get from computers, our lives seem increasingly rushed and frenetic. But then we get locked down…

The enforced cancellation of gigs and author events at first made made me desperate to embark on lots of other activities. Self-imposed targets whooshed in to fill the vacuum. Now there’d be time to learn ukulele and singing and increase my harp repertoire and write new songs and record a CD and write another book and and and… and suddenly my to-do list was longer than ever!

But I’ve realised I need to calm down. Socrates said: Beware the barrenness of a busy life, and he knew a thing or two. Naturally all life goes through cycles and includes a ‘wintering’ period: small creatures creep into hollows and curl up to sleep; trees shrug off their leaves and rest. Even when things aren’t going on, things actually are going on, beneath the surface, at a cellular level. The acorn sprouts inside the earth where no one can see. And we humans are continually processing a vast whirl of experiences. We are badly in need of quiet time so that we can reset and regenerate.

It’s hard though. Patience isn’t my forte and waiting is frustrating. That sense of ‘waiting’ is sometimes just a vague feeling but sometimes hinges on specific events. Waiting constitutes a large part of a writer’s life anyway: waiting for contracts, for publication, for news of sales figures etc. and author nails tend to be well bitten. At the moment I’m in a good phase regarding my new novel; penguins are perceived as Christmassy so my book is suited to this festive season. Thank goodness Away With The Penguins is on sale in the supermarkets and (because of the Richard & Judy Book Club news) in WHSmiths! Otherwise the timing of paperback publication would have been a disaster. Bookshops continued to trade over this last lockdown but they weren’t open for browsing, which obviously made a massive difference to sales.

With the help of my lovely publishers I’ve hopefully helped a little. I’ve been signing hundreds of bookplates and sending them out to 58 independent bookshops from St Ives to Scotland, as part of the UK #SignForOurBookshops campaign.

The idea is that a book signed by the author is more personal and precious than one that isn’t, so our wonderful local bookshops will have something special to offer. I hope that now their doors are open again, their run-up to Christmas will be a time of plenty.

Talking of doors opening, this is my Venice angels advent calendar.

I bought it several years ago but it comes out every December because it’s much too nice to throw away. I’m using it to remind myself (and you, if you’re still reading this) that, whatever problems we face, with every new day there’s a new door, and every new door is a new opportunity. Advent - especially this year - may be all about looking forward to a better time, but let’s enjoy any small beauties we can find while we are waiting.

And here are some from today's Exmoor walk.

Wishing you a worthwhile wintering and a happy festive season!

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