Monthly Archives: June 2014

Don’t Forget To Feel Alive


Sunrise over Arrowtown

What a week it was. Partner-in-crime’s birthday was Wednesday. Tuesday night, friends gathered for dinner & drinks. I had a lovely Skype catch-up with an editor friend before joining the crowd. On the one hand, I was designated-drivering but, on the other, I had fried chicken, so overall I was winning. Fun times. Then a new arrival said something that spun me about a bit. “Wow, Sara doesn’t look stressed!”

Now, I’d had a haircut. And this party-time – Tue night & Wed day – had been locked in the diary as un-negotiably non-work time, so I was pretty relaxed. But this gave me pause.

I’ve been trying for a while now to cultivate a blog full of hope & happiness, living a life full of the same. Obviously, all sorts of anti-fun things happen – but it’s generally possible to put a positive spin on them and find the silver-lining. At the same time, I’ve been building up an editing business, going through the publishing process (don’t talk to me about rewrites right now), holding down an accounting job while freelance accounting for a fish&chip shop and a charitable trust on the side, and participating in two writers’ groups. And moving house several times. I’ve had to forgo the badminton season this year but am still hoping to get some snowboarding in before a trip back to the UK in August.

In summary, I’ve been busy. And, even though I know that I procrastinate, and I know that there are days I’m not as productive as I should be, and that there are days when I’m not creative in the slightest, and that I’m envious of about a hundred other people who seem to be perfectly simultaneously juggling and balancing a hundred successful plates at the same time (as well as having a family to feed for gad’s sake!)… I find myself thinking about work/WIP. all. the. time. I fear that I’m getting a reputation as ‘the one who only works.’ This is distressing to someone once known as ‘the one who is always out.’ I suffered enduring FOMO back in my city days and never missed anything that might be remotely *fun* (or even a second cousin to fun. Twice removed).

I’m definitely living a more staid life. Apart from anything else, I lost the ability to cope with a hangover somewhere between Asia & Australia. But, however much work I’m doing, however ambitious I’m being – I’m still having fun.

Last weekend, I went up to Auckland for a reunion with some school-mates and we watched England lose to the All Blacks at Eden Park. I got to have the teeny-tiny donuts I’ve missed since the world cup.

On Wednesday, I skydived from 15,000 feet, free falling for 60 glorious seconds that felt like forever. It was beautiful up there. I sprung the jump on partner-in-crime as a surprise birthday present with great success, getting right to the drop zone before he suspected.

We then went to the birdlife conservation park and met kiwis for the first time. I’ve been desperate to see them in the wild, but it’s not that easy. Fun fact – they are the only bird that have evolved to have their nostrils at the tip of their beak rather than the base. They also mate for life, which pleases me.

On Saturday, I got up at a quarter to five. In the *morning* (it actually wasn’t my idea). We hiked up a mountain in the dark with our housemate to watch the sun rise (it did). And it was heart-stoppingly stunning. It made me happy to be exactly where I am, doing everything I’m doing. Like all of the above, it made me feel alive. And happy to be so.

Are you a recovering FOMO-fiend? Do you find work / your current projects overwhelming your life sometimes? Don’t forget to feel alive. No time is wasted time if you’re doing something that brings a smile to your or someone else’s face. 

A River Runs Through It

image-1‘Life every now and then becomes literature’ – Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

I’ve moved. The fairytale cottage fades into the past like a dream, the escapade of moving (again) now another funny anecdote in the story of my life. I’m still not quite entirely unpacked (and I’m sure, depending on the degree to which you know me, pictures in your heads will vary widely at this point), but I feel settled and happy in my new home.

The new pad is a home-made house sitting on seventy acres. You have to get out your car to open a wooden gate off a dirt track in order to reach it. From a spacious room full of windows letting in reams of light, I look out onto a paddock, flanked by rolling hills and woodland. If you venture through the woods at the far end, you descend to the pebbly banks of the Lower Shotover – the river the jet boats ride. At the moment, frost tends to dance on just about everything in sight, making leaving the house at 7am an arctic, if pretty, expedition.

But the best element of all? Aside from our lovely host & housemate Briar, it has to be the horses. There are three: Holly, a graceful ex-racer; Poppy, a miniature bundle of cute, solid Shetland; and then there’s River, pictured above, a towering, magnificent youngster, broken in recently by Briar’s sister, Shae, who lives in a cottage next door.

I have always loved horses. When I was wee, I remember having riding lessons on a horse called Pepsi. Always the naughty one of the group. Our relationship didn’t last too long, from my recollection. I went on in my formative days to flirt with ballet, swimming, the bass recorder, the piano, cello, drama, badminton, netball, hockey, an orchestra, a string ensemble, ice skating, musicals, skiing… All of which I committed varying degrees of commitment, enthusiasm and talent to. But I never became a horsey-girl.

When I moved to Edinburgh, I should have learnt to drive. I’d found it challenging, to say the least, to obtain a license in crazy, ring-roaded Coventry and pointless in Cambridge & London. But I took the pennies instead and took a bus out of the beautiful city into the even more beautiful countryside. I found a riding school and I took some lessons so that I could start trekking.

My horse bit me on my first day. Right on the stomach. And my riding didn’t improve much. The school horses followed each other around and tended to ignore me. I couldn’t afford private lessons and soon I was back in the big smoke, far from the country-life that had called to me. I didn’t ride again until I reached New Zealand.

Here, once settled, I went on two treks. One through Paradise (famous as the setting for many scenes in Lord Of The Rings, if you’ve heard of it?) and another through Cardrona. Both stunning and thoroughly enjoyable but also thoroughly expensive, despite being booked as half-price deals. And my horses tended to do their own thing, as usual, sensing the same lack of authority that calls seagulls out of the air to pluck fish and chips from my actual hand when I eat them on the beach (sigh).

A little wistfully, I’d made my peace with not being able to ride regularly, or well, when we became friends with Briar & Shae. I’ve now ridden both Holly & River several times, not just round the paddock but down to the Shotover River, idling along its sandy beaches through frost-dipped foliage. I’ve learnt a little how to trot properly and I’ve definitely overcome some of the apprehension that’s held me back from being a firm, confident rider in the past.

I never thought I’d ride River – he’s so big, so beautiful. I met him first when he was unbroken and found him quite intimidating. So not for me, I thought.  When Shae invited me to go for a ride, I was surprised. She’d trust this wonderful, playful, but most of all giant horse to my hands? As with many relationships/challenges/fears, what it takes is some confidence, some surety, some commitment – an invitation, a leg-up and some support and you can do anything.

I never thought I’d ride River, but it was in the realms of the possible. However, I’d never imagined that I’d ever have the opportunity to go bare-back riding – something so free, so natural and so uplifting that the feeling stays with you in a glow. I’ve felt this now, too.

Sometimes life conspires for your happiness. It presents a home when you lose one, a horse when you’d like one, a friend & teacher when you need one. There are so many sad stories in the world, so much grief, so much pain. When good things happen, we can only be thankful and enjoy the ride.

Have you ever conquered something you thought you never would? What’s *your* bare–back riding? Do you ever have moments where the sense overtakes you that your life is becoming a story?