3 June 2014

A Road Less Travelled

Our little local post office is rarely open when it is supposed to be - the opening hours are posted up on the door but, if you arrive an hour after it's meant to have the shutters up, chances are you'll find all locked and barred. Since I have four small children constantly in tow, and run a small business, this is pretty much a weekly occurance: me standing outside the post office impatiently waiting the shutters opening, and trying to keep my small herd rounded up and away from the road. It is a collosal waste of time and a regular stress. Mercifully, the children never seem to mind taking little walks around the neighbourhood (though they don't like the waiting around)!

Yesterday, I was having a Long Day. Moments of tiredness and frustration were starting to add up, and all four girls were engaged in projects and resistant to the idea of getting dressed (benefits of unschooling: nobody cares if you do maths in your pants, or hang out upside down on the sofa watching a history documentary in your pjs, or play Myst in shorts and a distinctly breakfasted vest, or make mud pies in the garden in nothing but a smile). I labelled everything and took deep breaths and tried not to watch the clock.

Finally, everyone was ready to go and after some assorted whining (me) and sarcasm (me again) in the doorway about People Who Move Mum's Keys, we got out of the door and along the familiar three streets to get the parcels sent. The post office was closed.

I stood there, feeling the helpless anger bubbling up and panicking a little at standing out in the heat with the children bored and antsy. I wanted to have a bit of a stomp, actually. There was a bit of fallen wall on the corner, and I took the girls over to climb on it (broken walls are good temporary entertainment, no?) and quickly went over the options in my head. 

- Martin is in Leicester today, no way he can do it on his break. - If I take the kids home now, I will be grumpy and worried about the post, and they will settle back to what they were doing. - So I can't do that, because I won't be able to get them out again later. - If we wait here we will get heatstroke, the corner shop isn't even open to get water and I don't have so much as a sun hat in my bag. - Gosh it's hot! And just when I was complaining about it being so cold and wet this Summer! Of *course* we're out here on the street and not at home playing in the cool calm green garden. - If I post the parcels tonight then they're delayed *again* and Yarn Club is already late this month. - Argh! Can't go home, can't stay here. -

The alleyway next to the post office is a place we have stopped for years, and never gone down to see what is there. I remembered something Sandra Dodd once said in a conversation - about finding joy and new experiences right in your own neighbourhood, walking a different route, something like that. 

"Let's see what's down here, then!" Shaded by a hedge of blackthorn and hawthorn trees, graffiti'd and grimy but *new*, so we walked.

We found the train tracks. Unripe sloes. A rusty bridge. New routes to places we like to visit already. A park we have never been to before. Daisy chains. Long grass to lie in. And a little dog called Cookie who wanted to play.

We spent a peaceful couple of hours shaded by trees and exploring peacefully, and went back to find the post office open so I could send out Yarn Club. By the time we came out of there, the corner shop was finally open for ice-cream. A day of stress and pressure and minor annoyances turned into a day of joys and laughter and calm and finding learning everywhere.

The hardest thing about choosing joy is the choosing! The turning away from the litany of shoulds and oughts and fears and frsutrations, and looking for something else. The "joy" part is easy - the tiniest mustard seed of curiousity, and it becomes clear - the world is a huge amazing place, and there is always a new path to take, a new place to discover, a new insect to examine, a new friend to make.





Edited to add: I can't find the exact quote by Sandra, I may be paraphrasing significantly, possibly attributing to her writing which was actually by someone else, or I may have been thinking of this. Wherever it actually came from in my reading and sharing, it was helpful to me in that moment. :)

Edited again (two months later) to add: I found it! Just now whilst looking for something unrelated! "
Sometimes it's just as simple as driving another route to the same old place, or going to a different grocery store than usual." - from a larger article about strewing.


  1. Love this - thank you xxx

  2. I love that half of your girlies are bedecked in my homesewn gypsy skirts. :)

    1. I love it too! :D (And Talia *was* wearing the yellow cardi you bought her for Christmas last year, but took it off when she got warm.)

  3. I am so grateful you share your adventures with us Sarah :) xx

  4. Sometimes I feel like the cheerleader in our home. All the negative voices when things don't go exactly to plan have to be drowned out with 'almost' artificial enthusiasm for a NEW adventure. As a mum though I know its worth being annoyingly cheerful to change the direction of the herd lol


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