Touchdown in Dubai: tick.
Sleep deprivation and delirium: tick.
Finally stopped blubbing after leaving my fella: tick.
Within 16 hours of hugging my parentals and puppies: tick.
Found WiFi and sent text love letters: tick.
Checked emails: tick.
Received full cover of novel ready to share once I’m on Australian soil: tick.
Approximation of current emotional state: CARE BEARS.
Only to be challenged by the lady I just saw on the elevator wearing a black tshirt with white caps lock writing: HAPPIER THAN A DUCK WITH BREAD.
Wherever you are in the world when you read this, I hope you have bread today.
Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
fluttering from the autumn tree.
— Emily Brontë.
A miracle happens in our garden every September: the ivy on the shed turns into a waterfall of rubies.
Happy equinox, wildflowers.
September light and colour in Manchester is such an evocative time machine. The chilly edge to the air, the plum, red, orange, yellow and gold in amongst the green leaves; the pearly quality of the sky all transport me.
To 2009 when I arrived as an uprooted Australian to start my creative writing MA.
To 2015 when I was in the thick of my first draft.
To last year, when I was working with my agents to get my manuscript ready for submission to publishers.
This cafe has always been one of my daydreaming hotspots. Time after time I'd pass this window on my way inside to order mint tea, put my headphones in and face the page alone. To turn that vapid blinking cursor into something. To make sentences that hadn't existed the day before. Because that's all my first draft had to do: exist. Making it any good came later. I took such heart from that. We can't edit blank pages.
Maybe you've got a dream on the stove, simmering. Maybe you've had a dream die down to embers. Maybe you feel like you don't know if it's worth the risk of being vulnerable, of trying and maybe failing, of standing up for your own heart. The tricky part is we're the only ones who can do that for ourselves. We're the only ones who can make space for the dreamer deep inside, who can clear a seat and say, you can sit here. And this, at least in my case, seems to be a lesson never learned, or, rather, one that has to be learned repeatedly. But would we want life any other way? In mindful self compassion practice, embracing contrast is key to accepting our humanness. We can't know joy without pain, we can't know full-bellied satisfaction without hunger, or warmth without cold, or creative fulfilment without the blank page. It's something constantly on my mind as *whispers* there are stirrings that feel something like The New Thing.
We change, we dream. We start by turning nothing into something.
Happy Sunday, wildflowers.
"I am most at home in the bush, or when I can see the fluid, moon bark of a eucalyptus tree from a window, or smell the hot powder of winter wattle on my way home." - Daisy Beattie
Recently, we were walking through my favourite public garden in Manchester, which belongs to the home of Fletcher Moss, a writer who left his estate to the people of the city. I come here most often when I'm craving Mum's native garden or the Australian bush except, of course, my need is never satiated even though English trees and flowers are evocative and gorgeous.
You can imagine my reaction when, as we strolled through the gardens recently, I FOUND A GUM TREE.
There may have been squawking. Honking. Throwing my grateful heart at this cider gum was the only sane reaction. I confess I sniffed its trunk and leaves with abandon.
Plant love notes: Cider gums (eucalyptus gunnii) are Tasmanian natives and tolerate cold temperatures. They produce a sweet sap similar to maple syrup, which Indigenous Australians traditionally tapped the tree trunks to collect. When bottled and capped, the liquid ferments and resembles apple cider, hence the English name.
Yesterday, Sam and I hid away from a chilly, drizzly afternoon in the countryside with the beautiful, warming Kate Forsyth. We devoured hours talking fairytales, courage, and flowers.
Every English summer since 2014 when Kate and I met in London, we’ve managed to meet again somewhere on this tiny island, together away from our big island home. In 2015, I was lucky enough to have a sponsored place on Kate’s extraordinary week-long History, Mystery & Magic writing retreat in Oxford and the Cotswolds, where I found time, space, and the flint I needed to spark Alice fully to life. In 2016, we reunited at Manchester Art Gallery, gazed at pre-Raphaelite paintings together, and Kate gave me a box of Frida’s prints for my birthday, which I later plastered all over my office walls. Often while I was writing, Frida (and Kate’s spirit) would stare me down, crack me open a little bit more, ask me to dig a little bit deeper. What would Frida/Kate do?!
This year however, raising our glasses of prosecco together with Sam in company, was particularly special. “To Alice,” Kate beamed.
To women, who empower each other.
Refuse to fall down.
If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down,
lift your heart toward heaven,
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you from lifting your heart
It is in the middle of misery
that so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good
came of this,
is not yet listening.
— Clarissa Pinkola Estés, The Faithful Gardener: A Wise Tale About That Which Can Never Die
When you find a door made of an ivy veil, by a river, with every shade of green you've ever dreamed, you don't think twice, right?
You walk through. Open your arms in gratitude, despite the pains you carry, and you lift your heart. Because you don't give up. We don't give up.
It's Friday, wildflowers. Take excellent care of yourselves this weekend.
The landscapes of northwest England are every English story we grew up reading. Any minute, you'll spot a Faraway Tree, or a Rabbithole, or a lamppost throwing the shadow of a great lion. Or, Jane walking in yellow fields as Rochester rides by, or Heathcliff glowering on a heather-blooming moor at Cathy's rainy window. Lizzie Bennet's only ever just out of frame.
Every path beckons. Every crag calls. Just like a book.
After years of talking about it, finally we walked together across this pebble beach and stood, with bambino, at the edge of The North Sea. My first love; we were brought together by our hunger for books and words and our dreams to live lives immersed in writing. She was one of the first to read anything I wrote after I moved to England. She trusted me with her writing which had such a profound effect on me I still remember lines by heart after reading them eight years ago. When we reunite, we pick up exactly where we last left off, like the very best book; my story sister and me.
Amsterdam and I have had a fickle (read: so downright disastrous it causes hysterics amongst friends) love affair over the years. Since 2010, each incident occurring on a separate visit, I've:
* been on a train when its electrical wiring exploded and was evacuated underground
* had flights cancelled by wildest snowstorm in 30 years
* stepped off a gutter, sober, not even caffeinated, and broke my foot
* got food poisoning part 1
* got food poisoning part 2
* was wrongly directed at night onto a train out of the city instead of into the city
* been on return flights that were grounded by the Dutch police upon landing for sexual harassment reports with the customers behind me, and on the way home rerouted to Sheffield for the woman beside me who was in physical distress and needed medical help.
This summer though, Holland, and Amtserdam turned up the light and I (cautiously) basked with my whole heart.
I've been home and in hermit mode for the last 10 days, letting the things raised and learned during the Mindfulness Self Compassion course settle. Also, relishing own bed. My lovely fella. My writing desk. My flowers and plants. My kitchen. And...I've gone deep into the dark wood of final copy edits. Latest revelation of a first-time novelist: writing REALLY IS editing: endless, endless, ENDLESS editing. Which I'm very grateful to count as the biggest challenge in my life right now.
Thanks as ever for sharing in these adventures with me. I hope you are able to bask today.
HOLLY RINGLAND grew up barefoot and wild in her mother's tropical garden on the east coast of Australia. Her interest in cultures and stories was sparked by a two-year journey her family took in North America when she was nine years old, living in a camper van and travelling from one national park to another. In her twenties, Holly worked for four years in a remote Indigenous community in the central Australian desert. Moving to England in 2009, Holly obtained her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. Her essays and short fiction have been published in various anthologies and literary journals. She now lives between the UK and Australia. To any question ever asked of Holly about growing up, writing has always been the answer.