Summer mornings

yellow hammock

I seemed to arrive in my body from somewhere else, as if sleep had released my soul to explore another realm, and on waking, gently deposited me back into a physical form. I first became aware of the loving weight of Leo, (my terrier cross), his chin resting on my ankles; and the reassuring pressure of Platon (my big dog), leaning into my side. I lay perfectly still, not to disturb them, but they can sense changes in my breathing. Leo must have been coiled like a spring, waiting for his signal to jump up and tickle my face with his whiskers, touching noses, and then stretching in a deep play bow, before settling into a down position as he balances on my supine body for a cuddle. He really is the most affectionate little ray of sunshine, and greets each morning with enthusiastic delight; it’s impossible not to start the day with a smile with his happy presence. Platon is a much cooler customer; he slowly stretches out, pushing against me as he extends to his full length, exposing his tummy for a tickle. He is my rock, reassuring and comforting, protective and vigilant, willful, independent, and stubborn, but loving, calming and fiercely loyal.

I lay for a few heavenly moments, enjoying my morning ‘love in’, watching Leo playfully nuzzle Platon, for a few brief seconds before Poppy (GSD/lurcher cross) bounded in, and bounced enthusiastically but haphazardly, onto the bed, landing on top of all of us! She is the chaos to Platon’s calm, the minx to Leo’s amenable nature, the diva of the pack, and she whips the bed up into a frenzy of playful wrestling and lands exhaustedly beside me on the pillow, panting heavily and eyeing me expectantly. By now I am completely awake, there is no chance of drifting back to dreamland, or floating in the ‘hypnopompic’ lucid dream state, I used to search my mind for clues of subconscious understanding. There is no room for wakeful dreaming, my dogs keep me firmly grounded in the present moment, it’s one of their charms, that we are engaged in the simplest pleasures of the here and now. As I lie with these three dogs that have changed my life, I am so grateful every morning, for my pack, and that they found me. Each dog has their own sad story of abuse and neglect, and yet are so loving and trusting, Poppy still struggles trusting new people, but within our family, she is confident and happy, and a little monkey!.

Eventually, I roll over onto my side, feeling the familiar ache in my back which I am now accustomed to, and I snuggle the dogs, tell them how much I love them. I then raise myself carefully into sitting position as they jump up and off the bed excitedly. Platon or Poppy will ring the goat bell that hangs from the door, if Poppy gets there first, the bell often ends up crashing to the floor as she impatiently demonstrates her desire to get into the garden. She leaps around like a slippery salmon swimming upstream, excited, insistent, and ‘singing’ a high pitched tune of frustration, as if demanding I hurry. I make them all wait, and sit in a row as I slowly open the door, reminding them to “perimenete” (Greek for wait), until I am satisfied, and release them like rockets as they charge out, into the morning sun.

We are currently in Greece, our summer home on a pretty Ionian island, where my days start with coffee on the terrace in my pyjamas and sunglasses, as the dogs sniff around the garden for evidence of our nighttime visitors. I sit noticing how many apricots have fallen from the laden tree, as I nurse a cappuccino and the dogs linger around the table in anticipation of their share of biscuits. It’s our morning ritual, as I dip cantuccini in my coffee, and feed them the Greek version of plain ‘Rich Tea’ in exchange for kisses (nose touches) and other good behaviour (sitting, lying, chins on my knee). As the morning warms up, I check my online media, and the dogs stretch out in the sun, playfully wrestling, gently until Poppy goads the boys into a pack tornado, that whirls around the garden, twisting and bouncing, occasionally yelping, when Leo bounds back to me for protection (he has an injured leg that can’t cope as well with his boisterous siblings), and finally Platon and Poppy will flop into the cool, fragrant earth under the fig tree. These are our summer mornings, and I savour every single moment, listening to the crickets (yet to fall asleep), birds chattering in the trees, and the occasional goat bells tinkling over the hill.

This is my happy place, and I commit these precious, golden moments to memory, stored up for rainy days or difficult times ahead. I feel even more blessed to be here this year, following emergency spinal surgery in January. It was my motivating goal; to be well and fit enough to drive the dogs back again, which I managed with the help of a friend (my surgeon has insisted I no longer undertake the journey alone). I am still recovering, but as I reflect on my progress, I’m proud of my journey, and so grateful to have made it to this place; where I can sit in my hammock swing, watching pairs of butterflies dance around the garden, smell the potted herbs (basil, mint, coriander) that scent the terrace, and watch the dogs lie contentedly under the dappled shadows of the fig, peach, apricot, orange, lemon and apple trees. I hope that wherever you are, you notice the little things too, because trust me, the little things really are the big things! Love & blessings, Hxx

{Photo, sadly uncredited, via Pinterest; words ~Hayley Darby © 2016}

Writing again..

Platon smiling
A cool breeze slipped through the shutters, and the tinkle of goat bells crept into my consciousness. The warm, breathing, body beside me sighed and rolled closer into my legs; wagging his tail, before lifting his head to check whether I was awake, finally! As if he’s been waiting for all eternity for the pleasure of my company. Every morning I am greeted with the happy expectant face of Platonas (my puppy), eager for another beautiful day of playful adventure, full of joy and optimism, which must be contagious, because I never feel any different. Once he is satisfied that I am actually awake, he gets up to inspect my face, and pushes his big black, wet nose into it, in response to the kissing noises I make. Then he stretches his bottom high in the air and his chest low, in a classic play bow; waiting for me to stir, giving in to a slightly impatient cuddle if I’m not quite ready to get up. As soon as I push back the covers, he jumps to the edge of the bed, showing off his impressive ‘downward dog’, front paws on the floor, back legs still on the bed (and he’s a tall dog), until he gracefully jumps down, and scampers around, wagging his tail, waiting for me.

Our home on our favourite Greek island is an attic apartment; which sounds very urban, but is actually on a small farm in a cute little village. We have the most amazing view across the sea to the neighbouring island to the east, and across the valley to dense forests of olive and cypress trees to the south and west. Platon impatiently rings the goat bell I have tied to the balcony door handle, even though I am only a few steps behind him, and we step out together to watch the morning sun glisten on the sea, having spilt over the mountains of Ithaki, bathing the early fishing boats and the occasional cruise ship on passing. Platon then pops up onto the sofa to watch patiently as I make coffee, he knows that the day starts with a leisurely cappuccino and sharing of cantuccini (those deliciously crunchy, Italian, almond biscotti). I potter around the kitchen, tidying up the crockery in the drying rack, shaking out the table cloth over the balcony, and watering the herbs (basil, mint, and chives) on our doorstep with the water from the washing up bowl. Our water is delivered by tankers to a big stone ‘sterna’, and we are much more careful than mains usage. Then as the coffee pot starts to gurgle, I froth the warm milk and Platon makes a space for me on the sofa. He sits with his paws on my lap, lowering his chin to look up at me most appealingly, as I dip each biscotti into the froth, and waits for his share (once I’ve nibbled away any almonds in his half, as they’re not good for dogs). My mornings are no longer my own, to check in and reflect on my feelings, but are filled with more love than I could ever imagine; and more than a little slobber as he dribbles in anticipation for each morsel of our shared breakfast. I wouldn’t change them for anything!

I don’t really know why I stopped writing before Platonas and I found each other in a barren wilderness; him literally starving, me (with a car load of food shopping) wondering which direction my life would take. I guess it was a combination of things, moving to California for a summer, finding myself anxious to get up and out in the mornings rather than savouring my thoughts and feelings (hideous, nosey landlady vs. coffee at the beach watching the early surfers, no competition really!). Then there was a feeling of change, lacking a plan, full of uncertainty, and a fatigue from giving, (which I am sure sounds selfish, but was actually a form of self-preservation). After my summer in Cali, and a brief encounter in London, I came to Greece, (my sanctuary), and just let myself ‘be’, as I waited to see where the flow would take me. Floating in turquoise seas and walking ancient paths through olive groves and crumbling ruins; choosing quiet and solitude, and adoring the simplicity. Then I travelled a lot, (Mexico, Florida, Colorado, New Orleans, and more of California), worked with some Olympic athletes, and got caught up in a relationship for a while, none of which was conducive to journaling. Then I returned to Greece for a few weeks holiday, found Platonas and stayed for the summer, briefly moving to Italy in the autumn, before driving home with my best ever travel companion to London (a tale I will write about soon). Winter was stressful, for all sorts of reasons, but my loving ‘little boy’ never failed to warm my heart and induce laughter at his comical character. Every spare moment was spent snuggling on the sofa together, walking around the vast and enchanting cemetery, or chasing each other around until we both collapsed panting and exhausted. Writing was not a priority.

It felt like months of waiting to return ‘home’ to Greece, and now we are here, we are appreciatively soaking up every sunny second. And each day, as we head to the beach after breakfast, wander along shady goat paths in the afternoons, or pop into the port for shopping and coffee, with a cast of delightful characters; I can feel my thoughts forming sentences, committing to memory the feelings as I relish them, and feel pulled to write to share and remember these precious moments. And now, as my attention is drawn to the raised head that angles inquisitively, I am being called to walk up the hill, amidst my landlords garden of tomatoes, onions, (and all sorts of vegetables) as the goats potter around them; to sit under an old olive tree and feed Platon ice cubes in the heat of the day, him crunching noisily, and me telling him why I’ve started writing again. Because I never, ever, even for a nanosecond, want to forget any of this chapter of my life that he’s spending with me. X

Blessings & love, Hxx

Sweet September

summer door

Good morning everyone!! Today I woke late after a late night, and felt the heaviness in my head, sunk deep into the pillow. I am a complete light-weight, one glass of champagne can sink me! However a large glass of water later, I was soon on the road to recovery, and memories of the previous evening’s dinner with an old friend soon put a smile on my face again. I stretched my whole length, still relishing the fact that I can push my toes into the cool brass of the bedstead, now that I am home in London, and rolled over to check my phone, finding a message from dear RO about our plans for a walk in the country and afternoon tea at a stately home. So I swung my legs out of bed and got up to draw the blind, finding a beautiful blue sky filled with cotton wool clouds and a definite autumnal hue after yesterday’s rain. Ah bittersweet September; I love the low sunlight, warmer seas, gentle breeze, and those lingering carefree afternoons, but it seems Summer’s end always arrives too soon.

However, I smile as I remember all endings are just beginnings in disguise. So whilst the end of warm sunny afternoons, flip flops, and breakfast on the balcony, make way for cosy cashmere sweaters, kicking the crisp burnt leaves and snuggling up by the fire, that the air is thick with possibility too. And then I (almost) wish I was going back to school, with a collection of freshly sharpened pencils, an exciting reading list, fresh new gym kit, and pocket full of good intentions, and I realise September has always been my favourite month, not just because of the fading summer afternoons, but the promise of a new chapter, the next leg of the journey, and maybe a doorway to pass through too!

I hope your weekend is wonderful, and that wherever you are, that September is filled with hope and beautiful beginnings too Blessings & love, Hxx

{Photo sadly uncredited, via Pinterest. Words by me. ~Hayley Darby ©2013}

Laguna Beach 18th June 2013

Laguna me 1

Hello everyone!! I’m sitting in my Laguna kitchen, watching the breeze dance with the shadows of the leaves on my patio, as the fragrant flowers blush in the afternoon sun. I am relaxed, content, happy, extremely grateful that I’m here, and privileged that this SoCal paradise is my home for the summer. It doesn’t seem possible that two weeks since my arrival have flown by already, yet at the same time it feels as if my London life is a distant memory, as it appears I have stepped back into the rhythms of life here almost seamlessly. I have shed a ton of worry and responsibility along with the jet-lag, and life feels lighter, brighter, and bursting with hopeful possibility.

I have enjoyed catching up with friends here, and re-acquainting myself with the laid back vibe this beach town absolutely hums with; and I have enjoyed meeting ‘me’ again. That’s the me that walks on the beach with a heart full of gratitude, that feels the resistance slip away in downward dog, that breathes in deeply the air perfumed with jasmine and gardenia, and sips my soy latte slowly savouring my environment. It’s the me that doesn’t have a head full of lists to tick off, emails to answer, people to contact, and chores to address; rather it’s the me that has room for acute observation, happy amusement and spontaneous decisions that make my heart happy and my soul sing. Life is easier here for lots of reasons, but most importantly of all, I feel as if I am perfectly positioned in this place, time, and sentiment, for whatever is meant to be, and it’s a wonderful feeling!

The past two weeks have been spent being gentle with myself, letting go of the ‘shoulds & coulds’ and accepting the way it is as I live in the moment. I have focused on sleeping well, eating well, and exercising gently; I have indulged in massage and manicure, reading, and making my home a sanctuary. I have purchased several scented candles (plus room sprays and diffusers), soft feather cushions, sumptuous body oils and creams, potted plants and bunches of peonies. I have joined a yoga studio, explored new beaches, reloaded my kindle, hiked in the canyon, discovered nutritious & delicious eateries, and watched the waves (and the surfers) each morning with coffee. I think it’s safe to say, I’ve settled in nicely!

There have also been some beautiful gifts here, it seems just waiting for me to come and claim them. My first day I met a British hairdresser, (as a curly girl stocking up on ‘Be Curly’ (Aveda) is a priority to tame the tresses), and we got talking (as you do!). He asked what I would be doing here in Laguna, and when I mentioned writing he immediately suggested I met his client that publishes books on health and nutrition. As it turns out, the publisher (relocated from New Jersey) has an impressive listing and I feel extremely privileged for the introduction. Then there’s the talent manager I briefly met last summer that I had coffee with this morning (SHE called ME!) and the exciting and energizing discussion we had about building the Pure Nourishment Brand. Suddenly I am aware that I have shed any prior tiredness and fatigue, and have caught the optimistic enthusiasm that infuses my SoCal experience, life is full of potential, I am surrounded by beauty, and I am bursting with gratitude for this opportunity : ))

Funny, I was going to give myself the whole of June as pure vacation, but suddenly I am itching to write that book proposal! Maybe I need another walk on the beach to consider the structure? ; )) I DO hope that you find time this summer to get reacquainted with the ‘you’ that you enjoy best too, the one that makes time to appreciate your needs, is gentle and kind with yourself, and finds serendipities waiting Blessings & love, Hxx

{Photo sadly uncredited, via Pinterest; words Hayley Darby ©2013}