At the moment, in my part of the UK, we are being blessed with wonderful weather. Anyone who knows the British weather will know this situation is unlikely to last and we will all probably be shivering into our thermals within days. But, right now, it is lovely.
As is usually the case, I woke up today with twenty-one hundred things to do but when a nice day comes along it is important to seize it and make the most of it. So beyond writing this blog, my stuff to do list is on hold for a day.
My puppy, Willow, and I have been on a long walk across the fields near our home – blissful peace and quiet, rolling countryside bright with sunshine and the only sounds were the very distant whisper of traffic, the occasional dog bark and loudest of all beautiful birdsong.
Now back, a long afternoon and evening stretches ahead of us in which we will both spend time pottering in the garden which is a mass of spring colours. Later we will relax, either outdoors or on the comfy sofa in the sun lounge, me reading a good book, Willow, nearby having a snooze. ! daresay a glass of something chilled may also be consumed. By me not her!
There is something about being faced by a large expanse of uninterrupted water that puts everything else into perspective, something calming about the way the muscle of the sea ripples back and forth.
A couple of weekends ago the sun was shining and sheltered from the wind Willow and I found a piece of leftover summer on a deserted beach. The sea was gentle that day, whispering back and forth across virgin sand and my puppy had her first paddle in the water. The sea wall was a sun trap on which to sit and while away time day dreaming, the sun casting a million jewels upon the water to dazzle our eyes.
The next weekend was very different. Stormy and cold with a raging wind, autumn had arrived with a vengeance. Willow and I loved it just the same. Confined to the promenade because the tide was so far in, it was exhilarating to be buffeted by the gusty wind. The onrushing waves were high and angry, battering the beach and sending foaming spray up on to the promenade to land at our feet. It was easy to lose myself in thought as I watched the peaks and troughs of the restless sea, the swells concealing hidden depths and dangers. It was a world away from the summer of the previous weekend.
Walking by the sea is good for our souls. Our problems seem to diminish in relation to the vastness of the water. It puts us back in touch with nature, the cycles of the seasons and the heartbeat of the world. It reminds us how small and inconsequential we are. And that is a good thing.
As some of you will know I recently welcomed a puppy into my life. A puppy + writing = zero productivity (in my experience so far!) so why would I suggest writers can learn anything from puppies?
My puppy is intrepid. She is stubborn. She is strong and she is determined.
These are all qualities we writers need by the bucket load.
Willow is also a problem solver. I screened off various parts of my garden to prevent her from getting into areas where she might get into difficulty. These naturally became the only parts of the garden she was interested in playing in. It was fascinating to watch as she quickly worked out various ways to scale walls, belly flop through trellises and jump through wicker hurdles. Personally I think she has been watching too much of the Olympics on TV! She thinks she’s a gymnast not a dachshund.
It is her absolute determination to overcome the obstacles put in front of her that has been so captivating. She would try the direct approach and when that didn’t work she would come at the problem from a new angle until she figured it out.
As writers we face a lot of obstacles. Some are common to all writers. Some are specific to trad published or indie published. One thing is for sure we have to be expert problem solvers. Leaving aside the complexities of managing characters and plot, finding your genre, finding your home, takes time.
We have to be prepared to travel down a lot of roads. We start out full of expectation but quickly discover we have either wandered into an impenetrable forest or wound up at a dead end. Time to retrace our steps and start over.
So far as Willow is concerned all the barriers in the garden have now been removed. There was no point in keeping them. She was just too smart but above all her persistence paid off. I guess it’s why they call it dogged determination!
In January this year I had to say goodbye to my precious dachshund Sasha. We had spent 16½ happy years together. Sasha had led a long and full life but saying goodbye, as any pet owner will know, is never easy.
However large or small in stature the loss of a pet leaves a large hole in your heart. It can take a long time to adjust – you imagine you can still hear them and see them. You find yourself looking for them, may be even calling to them out of habit and then you remember and the tears flow once more.
I am a writer and one of Sasha’s favourite spots was in my study either on her rug or her chair – yes her chair, I rarely got a look in! She would settle down and snooze while I worked. Many is the time I happily wrote accompanied by the sound of contented snoring.
Sasha was a gorgeous dog. A bit of a diva and a tyrant who ruled me with an iron paw. There aren’t many dogs who given their night time treat go and hide it and then expect their human to find it nor many humans daft enough to take part. If I tried to spin the game out by deliberately looking in the wrong place, she would quickly grow exasperated with me and point with her nose to the correct hiding place. It was probably just as well that she couldn’t talk although she’d often give it a very good try.
It has taken me several months to begin to heal. I still miss her, of course. I always will, as I do all my Dachsies – I have been blessed to share my life with four of them over the years.
Slowly my thoughts began to turn to the future and whether or not I should get a new pet. The decision to get a pet should never be rushed. It is a huge commitment. Pets need a lot of care and attention and dogs, being pack animals, need the interaction of humans or other dogs around them. And the decision to take on a new pet gets harder as you get older because there is always the fear niggling at the back of your mind about what might happen to your furry friend should the worst ever happen to you. Charities like The Cinnamon Trust can take some of this worry away from you. If you are unfamiliar with the wonderful work the Trust does do check them out http://www.cinnamon.org.uk/cinnamon-trust/ and if you are able to volunteer for them, all the better.
For my own part, I wasn’t sure my battered heart could take any more heartache but with time I came to realise that whilst it is devastating when you lose your little companion, the joy they give you and you give them throughout their lives makes the pain worthwhile.
So I have decided to do it all again. Willow joined me last weekend to start our new journey together.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had a puppy in the house so I expect to spend the rest of this year delighted and exhausted in equal measure.
Hopefully, once playtime is over she will settle down and soon I’ll be writing away to the sound of contented snores once again and all will be right with my little corner of the world. Wish me luck!