It is a year today since we moved from Edinburgh to this wonderful spot. We absolutely love it, and are all enjoying our new life here. An inhabitant of towns and cities all my life, I have always loved the outdoors, and have often yearned to live in the country. . . and being here at last has already made a massive difference to my mindset, my outlook, my work, and most certainly my health. Outdoors walking every day, I feel incredibly connected to my surroundings and the changing seasons: every day is subtly different, and I love tracing the turning of the year through the appearance of wildflowers and the songs of different birds. I have learned the privilege of recognising wild animals as individuals (not just “a hare” but “that hare”) and have enjoyed encountering many different beasties on my daily walks from newts to hen harriers. There are still many mornings when I wake up, find the world around me absolutely breathtaking, and can’t quite believe I actually live here. I wonder if this feeling will ever go away – I rather hope it doesn’t. The eighteenth-century women, whose letters I used to work on, were very fond of quoting Micah 4, the bit that comes after the swords and ploughshares about sitting under one’s own vine and fig tree. All I can say is that here I have at last found my vine, and my fig tree, though, this being Scotland, I’ll definitely have to erect a greenhouse if I actually want to grow them.
Here are some photos from our first year in our new home.
1: Bruce loves the beach
8. Fine weather for walking
9, 10: The first time in four and half years that, while away, I have not been bothered in one way or another by my health or my physical limitations. Am I really so much better? Or have I merely finally adapted to my “new normal”? Either way, it felt pretty good to climb up behind that crag, to see that view.
After a rather tricky few weeks, I’ve had some time to think, and to reflect on where things stand for me, healthwise and workwise. It is fair to say that I am really very busy at the moment — far too busy for things not to become difficult when I’m not feeling my best. So, after taking some advice, I’ve decided, with considerable regret, to step back from many fun projects I’d agreed to be involved in, including all events, talks, and teaching for the coming year. This means, for example, that I won’t be attending Woolfest, or Shetland Wool Week as I’d planned. I’m very sorry about this, but am sure you will all understand. Staying on an even keel has to take priority and I’m hoping this decision will enable this to happen.
It has been an up-and-down sort of couple of weeks here. On the down side, I have not been feeling my best; there have been many more bad days than usual, and, most frustratingly, I’ve had to cancel several occasions to which I was really looking forward. I suppose some sort of energy-fallout was inevitable after the eventful and fun-packed few days of Shetland Wool Week, but still, there is nothing that dampens ones spirits more than weighing up activities in terms of their toll on ones reserves. On the up side — and it is a massive up — I appear to have almost made a book. Entering ‘Kate Davies Designs’ in the empty box that asked for ‘Publisher Name’ on several forms has made me foolishly excited, and I am really enjoying this stage of the process, which is involving some contextual writing, and the singular pleasure of seeing my patterns, photographs, and essays all laid out on the page. Some great people have been integral to this project, and every day I find myself more happy to have the opportunity to work with them, more and more amazed that this is what I actually DO. So, despite the fact that I have found myself cursing the stroke more than usual of late, really, its all good.
I’ve not been talking here much about what’s been involved in designing this new collection or in developing the book (I suppose part of me has been concerned – not unreasonably – that something was going to occur to scupper the process) but I think you’ll all soon find that I won’t be able to shut up about it. In the meantime, here are five images which give you a wee taster of each of the books five sections, each of which contains an exploratory essay, photographic lookbook, and a pair of Shetland-inspired designs.
In other news, having found myself in the singularly odd position of not currently working on one of my own patterns, I have signed up for Woolly Wormhead’s Mystery Hat Knitalong. Woolly’s designs are so innovative and stylish, and her patterns so well written that I know I will enjoy the process, and end up with something amazing to stick on my heid! The only issue is that, having successfully applied a rigorous ‘work-only’ policy to my stash for the past couple of years, I find myself without any suitable yarn. It might be time to treat myself to a tasty new skein . . .
A post for my own benefit, and for those of you who are interested in how I’m managing, health-wise.
On a routine visit to my GP yesterday, she pointed out that it was the first time I’d been to see her since May. Given the regularity of my visits to her surgery over the past two and a half years, this is an unusual but entirely happy state of affairs. So, it occurred to me yesterday that I am, in general, doing much better of late. This does not mean that I am recovered or anything: I still get hit with the occasional horrible, crushing bout of post-stroke fatigue; I still find ‘noisy’ public situations difficult and tiring; I still suffer from sharp, intrusive headaches and have weird moments of vertigo; I still limp about with a tiresomely unreliable left leg and have to sleep ten hours a night to have any hope of managing the next day — but I am certainly managing. Tom puts it this way: the bad days are still as bad, but there seem to be less of them. Reflecting on how I’ve handled the past (extremely busy) few months, I genuinely feel that I have turned some sort of a corner. The key difference, or perhaps shift, is this: I don’t have to always think about how I am feeling. Because my energy levels were so low, I was constantly having to weigh up each day’s activities in terms of their inevitable toll. An afternoon would often turn on an impossible equation (you can cook a meal or take Bruce for a walk, but not both ) and there was no space around these (incredibly basic) getting-by activities for anything that would, in my new world, count as work (reading, designing, thinking, writing, responding to email, a trip to the post office). As well as being physically debilitating, suffering from any sort of chronic health condition takes up an awful lot of mind space. If you are thinking about how much energy you have left, or how much pain you are in, you really don’t have the resources to think about much else. I suppose all that I am saying is that I feel that I have more of those resources.
On reflection, I think this recent feeling – of being a bit more capable – probably combines two factors: first, the actual incremental improvements in my condition that I continue to observe, and second, my adjustment to the realities of my post-stroke ‘normal’ — by which I mean that I am much better, and much more rigorous, at making sure I have the right amount of sleep (this really is the key for me), at eating regularly to maintain my energy, at limiting the number of things that I say ‘yes’ to, and at just fitting the right amount of stuff into each day. Put simply, I take care of myself so that I can manage to do the things that are important to me. I suppose, really, this is a basic rule of well-being, that anyone, not just someone who has had a stroke, might adhere to.