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Jul 22, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

He doesn’t deserve these words I don’t think. To be spoken about and made real again. To acknowledge his existence in mine. To dig deep into the tiny locked box in a corner of my heart that was slammed shut 25 years ago. My wild drunken self and his wild drunken self. My young shy, unknowing self from a tiny caged town. I dreamt of him before I knew him. He rocked my life, my heart in a city on the other side of the planet.

We met in a pub, drunk. He was always drunk. Suntanned, blonde, brown eyes. He made the blood rush to my head, wobbly, uncertain, electric. I regretted sleeping with him that night. But then I did it again and again and again for a whole year. We shared a magnetism, a connection that I couldn’t put down. I kept going back. He was so damaged and closed, confused and chaotic. He didn’t love me. He couldn’t let me in. But he wouldn’t let it go either. ‘Friends who have sex’ he called it, on his terms because it’s all he could give. A shut down heart but a wild open body. The second night we spent together, he showed me his passport photo. And I knew I loved him.

I went travelling around the vast, red, parched ancient land to escape him. I kissed other boys, propped up bars in outback towns and worked on farms in baking white heat to try and get him out of my heart. He had someone new for a while.

I had to go back to the glistening blue harbour city in the end and straight back into his bed. He sent me crazy with desire and pain mixed up with booze and confusion. I lost myself in him. I had to come back to the U.K. in the end, to recover. To lock him away before he broke me. A piece of him lives in me forever.

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Helen... this is exciting and resoundingly honest writing. I found the whole piece compelling and this line in particular I wished was on a page in a book instead of the screen so I could underline it: 'A shut down heart but a wild open body.' Wow.

And your last paragraph. Oh yes. That decision none of us wants to make but then we have to if we're going to free ourselves from the awful and thrilling dance of it all.

Here is your link & thank you for understanding why it is taking me longer to read and reply this month. Things here are tearful but as much from joy as sadness.

https://thecureforsleep.com/stay-this-moment/#helenlouise

Txx

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Jul 28, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thanks so much for your comments as ever Tanya- it was weird writing this and thinking about him again! I saw the lovely pics and thread about your mum on Twitter - such a precious time- sending love xx

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Wow Helen Louise, this so brilliantly captures the destructive compulsion of youthful relationships. I also found 'a shut down heart but wild open body' a very powerful line.

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Powerful writing, thanks for sharing

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Jul 23, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Sending you strength & love Tanya for the coming weeks 💕 xx

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Love the line others quoted and also "tiny caged town." So visceral.

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Ooh those heady days Helen! Crazy days of our youth so perfectly penned! I couldn't stop reading it!!

Thank you Helen! xx

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In my memory, I am sitting alone on a mound of grassed earth, on a recreation ground overlooking a mental health organisation's headquarters.

Every Friday afternoon I came to this building to counsel clients for the organisation. I was studying to be a counsellor, making up hours towards my qualification.

Back then, the purpose of what I was doing in my life was clear and sure. I would complete my placement here, then write my case study and qualify. After that, who knew? Private practice eventually and employment hopefully.

Right at that moment, sitting there on a late summer’s afternoon, waiting for my ride home, music in my ears from earphones, the atmosphere quiet and still all around me – I wanted to stay here. To bask, is that a word for it? Yes, to bask in the peaceful knowing of this time, where I felt some surety in the direction things were moving in. Things were not perfect, I knew that, but there was a positive sense of possibility in my life.

To stay in that sense of possibility for a while, the sun getting lower in the sky and that sense of peace in a day well used, yes I would most definitely want to sit within those feelings again. Before the lingering burnout, and the overwhelming presence of loss and sorrow that has permeated so many parts of my life in recent times.

I know that time has passed now, for me. Innocence lost is not so easily regained, if that is even possible. And yet, am cautiously hopeful for other such moments of purpose in my future.

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I was hoping a few pieces would come in that would have work at their hearts: I disagree with the top 5 regrets of the dying orthodoxy in which 'people regret how much time they spent at work.' For my mother, now in her last days, it is the glory days of the bank and her shorthand training before it that she returns to most often in memory, even more than to the brief time of her great lost love.

I love too that you have described a time when you were alone and not in relationship to an other. And how you invoke basking - what a word, what a sensation.

As ever thank you for being part of this project. I love how you write.

https://thecureforsleep.com/stay-this-moment/#sharonc

Txx

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Oh thank you, Tanya. Such encouragement is so important. Yes, basking was just the right word for that moment, can still see it in my memory.

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Ah Sharon, as a fellow counselor I can feel your words and how the moments of possibility must have felt for you. To sit in the innocence of it all!

You have set me off again along memory lane, and I am taking a different path this time. Away from the memory of my first-born's quickening and towards the days of a different kind of innocence.

Many blessings,

Tracey xx

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Tracey, thank you, had no idea you were a counsellor as well! Well, actually I don't identify with the role now, as not practiced for year and half. But who knows, eh?

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I love how you capture that moment of belief and hope when starting out on something new, Sharon. Yes to basking, it's a feeling I think many of us relate to. And optimism. 🙏

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Merged

I wanted to inhabit him, the one I loved back then. He was edgy; an artist, skate rat, punk rocker who pushed me way out of my comfort zone. I remember thinking, basking in the California sun on glacial boulders that dotted the lakeshore, that I will never really know this man. Though deeply enmeshed in each other’s emotions and bodies, there was a distance I could not cross. I felt a rush of blood rise when he looked my way, but he held the upper hand, always, could choose to be aloof or penetratingly present. To lose his gaze ached of failure. I fingered the coarse boulder, the frayed edge of my towel and felt the sun dissolving me into sleep, the scent of sunshine rising from his skin and mine.

Startled by a splash, I watched him moving beneath the clear surface, his pale skin otherworldly in the watery light. I followed, watched him, crab-like, climbing up a larger boulder with some friends, looking for a higher spot to jump from. Typical. He’d find the most dangerous thing in any given landscape to do and blindly leap. I ducked my head beneath the surface into watery silence, and heard a curious shimmering sound. I bobbed to the surface, to see if someone was playing guitar. Then dove again, rhythmic in an underwater breast stroke and heard a faint chiming like fairy bells. It was coming from me. My earrings danced and I jingled through the clear, cold water, twirling like a seal alive in its element. I had merged, not with the one I loved, but with water, my body delightful in fluid movement. Now, years later, surrendering to ocean waves, or enveloped by loon calls on a starlit swim, reverberations of that joy sing in my blood.

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Oakley... wow! You had me from the first line: I wanted to know more, to follow you where I thought you were taking me... but then that surprising and very very exciting new understanding. I loved this.

Thank you, too, for being the first person to respond to this month's theme. It's been hard seeing a story from you in my inbox but being unable to get to it in this week of giving end of life care to my mother. That of course is not only my priority but also a privilege - and yet it doesn't feel wrong to say that I am happy for much of my writing life to disappear this year, but not this community. So tonight I was especially efficient in my tidying up after Mum's bedtime so as to get to your words!

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/stay-this-moment/#oakleytorrens

Txx

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I love the twist in this, Oakley, and how you write about water. I'm in there with you 🙏

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Jul 25, 2023·edited Jul 25, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

As he recovered from cancer, and caring for him became both stressful and exhausting, my husband would kick me out, metaphorically, for a walk. Some ‘you time’ he called it. For years, I have attributed my love for nature to these walks, but it wasn't as if I skipped there and was miraculously healed. I was driven by fear. With permission to escape, I hurtled towards an uncertain freedom; feral, scared, and confused. I found places to hide and hoped to be absorbed by the very ground beneath me. If I could merge into the darkness, if no one saw me, I’d be okay. Safe, I thought.

For several nights I crouched in a wood behind a fallen log, grasping wet, leafy loam in both hands, waiting for a badger. It never came. Instead, in tree-canopied shadows, a tawny owl pounced on its prey three feet away. An unsuspecting wood mouse squealed in pain and died. My heart lept, as if thumped by CPR, and came alive again.

Enlivened, I found another wood, hemmed in by houses but riddled with holes like an Edam cheese. This time I’d heard the badgers, seen fresh earth dug from their holes during a daylight recce. As night fell, I sat, shallow-breathing, knees tucked beneath my chin, beside the biggest hole, and waited. Snuffling breath, some scratching, bickering with family. Then it was there, white-striped, eyes kind before me. Wild. Free. Unaware and undemanding. The most beautiful creature I had ever seen, the dawning at dusk of a lifelong love affair.

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Jane this is stunning - and I'm reading it as you know just feet away from my mother as her life ends. Each day one of her siblings offer me an hour from the house but - for the first time in my life - I've wanted to stay in since Wednesday. But I know when I do go out one day soon that you have shown me the way to return to the world - I want like you to go to ground, to be hidden, to forget myself in looking for and at a wild free thing.

I know I will be returning to this piece by you over and again in the next few weeks: a touchstone.

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/stay-this-moment/#janeadams

Txx

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I was so touched by your comment, Tanya. Thank you. That feeling of wanting to stay in, just to be there and offer whatever comfort you can, can be so strong. Your words reminded me of sitting (and lying) with my mum before she died, and how important those memories are to me now eight years later. The wild free things will be there for you when you're ready to find them. Much love to you and your mum xx

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Jul 30, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I was deeply moved by this piece, Jane. Especially when you talked about not skipping to nature, but being driven by fear. There’s resonance in that for me. So many beautiful images in here too. And ‘the dawning at dusk’ is a glorious turn of phrase. Thank you!

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Thank you so much for your comment. I found it hard to express a 'time of great love and purpose'. Just working out what that meant had me scratching my head for days, so I'm glad the piece resonated.

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So moving Jane to read of your connection to nature and the gift it offered you at what must have been such a difficult time. I had the pleasure of unexpectedly meeting a badger in the woods near where I live, such an unusual and beautiful presence to encounter.

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I love the sense of place in this, Jane, I can hear it and smell it - not so much one place as the feeling of being inside nature. And what a special gift from your husband. Really lovely. xs

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Oh, what a moving piece Jane. The healing power of Mother Earth so exquisitely captured, so wonderfully engaging.

Tracey x

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Jul 24, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

When my babies were small, squishy, warm and all they wanted was to sleep on me and feed from me for what seemed like an eternity. At the time I was often desperate to put them down, why don’t they sleep on their own, just go to sleep… inexplicable seemingly irrational life of a small baby whose needs are so primordial, such life is incapable of reason. I felt I had lost myself, was desperate to be myself again, despite 9 months of growing, build up and preparation, in a short moment the cut of a surgeons knife had changed my life forcefully forever

and yet … when I am sad and mournful and harassed now I look back to those moments of just holding and being with the baby connected to me once again, their warmth and soft weight and dream myself there in those moments of pure bliss, I ground myself there in ephemeral joy and feel that love and bliss

Now that squishy infant flesh has been stretched out so that my babies are long and slim, vertically longer than me. But they are beautiful still, I will watch them whilst they sleep, or whilst they don’t realise I am watching and marvel at their beauty. I store those moments up again to return to and think about later on in any moments of angst so as to ground myself in the love of motherhood

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Hello again Jenni. Sorry it took a while to curate your beautiful piece. The days here at my mother's bedside are both slow as in the days of new motherhood, but also fragmented in much the same way. I'm so glad to have this piece in the project. Tx

https://thecureforsleep.com/stay-this-moment/#jenni

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Jul 31, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you 😊. Feeling inspired to look for some other prompts amongst past chapters x

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Wonderful!!! x

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Ps Jenni! I realised after sending that you are likely the Jenni who is already in the project (sorry I'm sleep deprived due to nursing my mum). You wrote for the Mirrors and Skill themes? If that is indeed you it would still be great to have a surname initial as now that more people are writing it helps to keep the search results accurate. Txx

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Dear Tanya thank you for your very kind comments. Please know I hold you and your mum in my thoughts.

Yes I have contributed before, but it’s Jenni J x

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This is beautiful and deeply honest writing. Thank you Jenni. And I'm reading it while my mother in her last days sleep like - yes - a baby in the bed beside my chair. Only this morning as I whirled around the tiny flat tidying I suddenly stopped, pierced by the memory of how few times I was able or wanted to sit quiet while my babies napped. And so I sat just holding her hand an hour while the rain fell hard beyond the window. To read your piece now is almost uncanny. Confirmation.

There is such a gorgeous sensual quality to what you've written. It's beautiful.

I would love to curate this as soon as I'm able. Can you give me a last name or a last initial please as there is already a Jenni in the project!

Very best, Tanya

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I enjoyed reading this Jenni, thank you for saying so much that I could say yes to as well. I especially love the line that ends in ...I ground myself there in ephemeral joy and feel that love and bliss...

Amen to that feeling xx

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Tracey thank you so much for your comment!

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It all began at that moment. The mama I was, the mama I am, was born of that moment. A moment I often return to many moons later.

It all began then, at that life-altering moment, a moment of unexpected transformation, a moment encapsulating uncharted emotions and feelings, a moment that I have since swaddled in amber and enshrined within my heart for eternity.

A gift of a moment that I could not have possibly prepared myself for, even though I thought I had. My one book that instantly became a mass of inked margins and tatty-turned corners could not have readied me. I might have had some knowledge, but knowledge isn't knowing.

That moment, that very instant when I knew you had moved, you had just danced for me, danced within me, for the very first time. In that second, I awakened to a deep ancient knowledge, a re-membering in my bones that told me so. Told me what no book could.

A movement so tiny yet so viscerally life-changing, causing my heart to respond in ways I never knew existed. In ways that I could not articulate because I did not have a language for any of this. Not back then, back when I was but a child in the form of a woman.

My entire body responded in achingly intense ways that I could not resist and, I could not deny. I could only accept and allow.

Your first dance changed me. It had brought upon my soul something so surreal, and I was no longer the same me anymore.

I had become a mama the moment you danced for me.

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So evocative. I'd never thought of that sensation as a dance but now you've sent me back in memory to the movements of my two children inside me, and I have renewed access to that time through your words about your experience. Thank you for sharing this. Tx

https://thecureforsleep.com/stay-this-moment/#traceymayor

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As always, I appreciate your time here Tanya, even more so with all that you are journeying through. Lots of love to you, your mother and the rest of your family. xx

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Jul 31, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Beautiful, Tracey, you have offered such a lovely way to see those early movements, the reawakening of 'a deep, ancient knowledge', and the intimacy of that first dance. 🙏

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Thank you, Shelia, for taking the time to read and comment. I am pleased that this piece spoke to you. 🙏

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"Swaddled in amber," just wonderful. I too never thought of it as a dance, but that is just what it is. Such a wonderful memory of the first time that I too felt my daughter. Really related to thinking I was prepared, "the inked margins and tatty-turned corners." I laugh at the thought now! xx

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Dear Shelia, I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment, thank you! We are so very blessed to have these memories aren't we 🙏

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Jul 30, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thirty Minutes

It was late, the lights low. There were others in the room. When they spoke, I didn’t hear. We were effectively alone. Gifted those thirty minutes, I was determined to use them well. Uncharted territory for both of us. Nervousness, on my part. In her eyes, only undiluted curiosity.

What did we talk about? Nothing. What did we communicate? Everything. All done through gazes, touch, and the close considerations of the fascinated. She intrigued me. Was she trying to outstare me? If so, it was in the gentlest way imaginable. I’ve never felt as intensely weighed up as I was in those thirty minutes. How could she seem so wise before her years? How could anyone teach me so much in a first meeting? I ran my forefinger across her soft cheek.

‘Could I ever be good enough for her?’

That mantra thought overwhelmed me. It still does.

It’s late, the lights low. Thirty years later, she’s back in the same building. I’m at home, waiting for news. Both of us awake. She’s on the verge of delivering the next generation. It won’t be long now. No surprise that I’m taken back to those thirty minutes that I revisit often.

What times, what sharing we’ve had in these past three decades. The obvious highs, of course: days on Alligin, An Teallach and Seana Bhràigh; the thrill of seeing a lesser-spotted woodpecker or a capercaillie; academic triumphs. But the challenges faced count for more. We’ve held each other’s hand with resolute tenderness when the going’s been rough, a tenderness forged in the crucible of those first thirty minutes.

What have I learnt? A father knows no greater privilege than to stare into his first-born’s eyes. That’s when he gets to lay the foundations for the purest love he could ever know.

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As a woman who grew up without that kind of paternal care, I delight in every proof I encounter - in person or in writing - of men who care deeply and constantly for their children. And this is among the finest of those descriptions I've ever read. I love this line in particular: ' a tenderness forged in the crucible of those first thirty minutes.'

Here is your link, Paul, and it's always a joy when I see a contribution from you come in. Thank you. Tx

https://thecureforsleep.com/stay-this-moment/#paulgamble

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Aug 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thanks - as always - for such generous comments, Tanya.

I could not walk past this prompt at a moment of great significance in my life. It's one of many coincidences that our daughter returned to the same building (quite possibly the very same room) to become a mother for the first time in the early hours of this morning. She's had a gruelling week of it, mostly in that hospital, but expert care helped her to a happy ending. How will the experience of a grandfather's first gaze into a granddaughter's eyes differ from what I've tried to capture in my piece, I wonder?

Such a good prompt that encouraged me to understand better the deep feelings that run through us at times of beginning, and indeed end. Thinking of you as you honour your mum with dignity and grace. Px

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Oh Paul - I'm so happy for you and your daughter. From everything of yours I've read, I know you will make a fine fine grandfather xx

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Jul 31, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Wonderful Paul, and so very special to hear about this from a father's point of view. Wishing you both every happiness in the weeks ahead. xs

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I loved how it wasn't obvious who you were describing, how the piece grew after the first paragraph and then 'What did we talk about? Nothing. What did we communicate? Everything'. That line alone really got to me. Then the contrast with your daughter giving birth, and all the thoughts and memories running through your mind. Just perfect. I don't have children, and it's fascinating how many have written about their experiences. I can't imagine how profound it must feel, and how scary, but to hear it from a father was both captivating and incredibly powerful. Thank you for being so honest.

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Motherhood is the greatest love of my life. I lived in my head for a long time and was indifferent to my body. Pregnancy has changed that; I was humbled by the magic of creation that was happening inside. The sense of connection to the beauty of nature, and to its mystery. I could never complain about a single cell of my flesh after that. Motherhood has changed me in ways I never expected. It was a sacred initiation into becoming myself, making connection to what’s possible without any claim of certainty. For the first time I felt the icicles in my heart were melting. I was moving through my fears with purpose and calm, even though the calm was often a pretence, the purpose was always real. I caught a wave that carried me and filled me with love that I never experienced before. I stopped questioning if love was just a poetic invention. I was mothering myself alongside my children. My childish self-centeredness was turned inside out and out into the world. Motherhood showed me the cracks I wasn’t noticing; it shone the light on reasons to face the pain that was numbed and hidden away. It gave me strength to enter the darkness and head straight through it. My children taught me how to live openly and bravely. Tamed heart rediscovered long forgotten but wise wilderness of Mother Nature. And now, as I sit still under an oak tree where I first played ball with my two baby boys and read messages from them from miles away telling me about their adventures, my heart fills with happiness, a moment I want to treasure forever.

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Oh Elena. What can I say? Simply beautiful. "I could never complain about a single cell of my flesh after that." All of it but this especially. Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/stay-this-moment/#elenayates

Txx

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Thank you, Tanya. Lots of love to you and your mum. Hope the nurses are able to keep her comfortable xxx

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It’s just me with her in the dust and I’m worried that nurses may not come if I need them at night over the weekend - but so far they’ve been almost daily ti check Mum & advise me xx

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I thought your mum was in hospital but it’s so much better for her to be at home. Must be really tough for you though. You are very strong and kind, not many people would be able to do it. Big big hug for you xx

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Such a testament to the changes that often arise in mothering, seeing our bodies as strong and capable and not just to be valued by others' perceptions. Tamed heart rediscovered long forgotten but wise wilderness of Mother Nature....lovely sentence read aloud. As you know, I so related to the smiles that arise when we hear of our children's adventures from afar. xx

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Motherhood changes us in ways we cannot possibly envision, especially as often we are mere babes ourselves when we venture into the unknown parts of it all. I love what you have captured here, the line about your children teaching you how to live openly and bravely is one I feel applies to me too, and many of our sisters out there. As always, I love your offerings, Elean. xx

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Thank you so much for your kind words, Tracey! Xxx

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My pleasure 🙏

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Jul 31, 2023·edited Jul 31, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Leaping onto the crest of a breaking wave, waist-deep in the ocean, and hurtling to the shore on a bodyboard. Deposited sprawling, on the sand, as the sea ebbs once again;

Or that moment in choir, a few bars in, when the vibrations of sixty bellies and breath from one hundred and twenty lungs meld, in soaring harmonies. At first we are hearing the notes, but then we become the music. When our final notes fade away the applause startles us;

Or, when seated at the piano tinkling the opening to ‘The Heart Asks Pleasure First’, the tune demands my hands to start moving in opposing directions. I must commit to the music. I plunge, the notes taking over.

Or the moment, at a kitchen table in the early hours, when someone suddenly says “what time is it?” and you realise you have been surrounded by the warmth of friendship for eight or nine hours and it feels like a minute.

Or, making my Dad comfortable in the minutes after he died. Ruffling his thin grey hair, smoothing the wool of his jumper against his chest, tucking a soft blanket around his waist to ease his passage between worlds.

It is a feeling I return to. Weightless, timeless. Perfectly alive. Between worlds.

A sense of being in this world and no world.

You only know you were there after you have returned.

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Oh I love how you write. Always have since you first joined the project, but this one found me at just the right time. Each section is so complete in itself but the way they come together to make your last sentences resound is both soulful and very skilled. And how much I love this line in particular 'the vibrations of sixty bellies and breath from one hundred and twenty lungs': you write about music (a skill I am sadly without) in a way I would happily read in book-length.

I'd love to know what you're working on this season, if you have time to say. I think your MA is ended or is it part way through?

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/stay-this-moment/#sheiladecourcy

Txxx

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Aug 1, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you Tanya, always. Here I am in the final 6 weeks of the MA, working on a portfolio of c.25 pieces, all different topics, treatments and lengths - between 250 and 7,000 words. Total submission is 25,000 words. Despite the immersion I couldn't avoid your prompt, it's a special one. Wishing you the very best, with love, Sheila

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Oh Sheila. All my very best for the last weeks of your studies. It's been an absolute privilege receiving pieces from you for this project, and I feel sure I will be reading your work in long form one season soon. Are you entering the Nan Shepherd? I do hope so. xxx

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This. Wow. This really caught me off guard. I'm crying (and I'm not one for tears). Though they are such personal memories, I connect with them all. You're so right, 'You only know you were there after you have returned'. Thank you for writing this.

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Thank you Jane. xs

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Speechless Shelia! A resounding yes to all of those moments you have captured so exquisitely. So many wonderful lines, incredible moments all perfectly summed up in the final line. A beautiful read. Thank you.

Tracey xx

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Hello Tracey. I have just made the connection between your presence here and on Instagram - I'm afraid I'm not the best on social media but do love how it weaves ideas and people and places. Thank you for your lovely comments. xs

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Hi Shelia! With the SM name being different it isn't easy to make the connection. Thank you for connecting 🙏

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Jul 30, 2023·edited Jul 30, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

When I think of moments to live and relive over and over, they are like photos taken, developed, carefully pocketed in albums. And one I return to often, rests within the leaves of a family photo album. I am sitting on a rocky outcrop, near the highest point on Mendip, cradling my infant son, windswept with his two sisters at my side. It is a vantage point which gifts the climber a view of gentle Somerset hills, patchworked fields, lakes and woods, interspersed with villages; including the one we called our home. Ed and I marvelled at how we’d found ourselves there, in a life starkly contrasting with the city-dwellers we’d been in earlier years, happy in urban edginess yet yearning for the expanse, now before us. Our family longed-for, now complete.

Gone in that perfect moment were our doubts and those of others, that we were ready for this. We were young parents still fresh from the turmoil of younger years. But why not, climb with a babe in arms and feed him on what felt like, the top of the world, whilst his sisters immersed themselves in imaginary worlds, on the rocks around us?

In the months and years before our youngest was born, Ed and I shared a strange feeling whilst walking in the woods behind our house. The girls would be up ahead, hiding or scrambling about, we knew they were there, but someone was missing, another child who was waiting to be called into existence…

And there we were, together and truly alive - my son more than just imagined into being, my daughters laughing and united in their imaginings of elsewhere, myself with the wind in my hair cradling my baby - Ed capturing us forever in that moment.

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How much I love this Lou. I feel like I can see the photo as well as experience the feelings within it. And then the uncanny (in the best way) detail of how you'd sensed a third child waiting to join you. Gorgeous prose for a beautiful moment. Here is your link.. Txx

https://thecureforsleep.com/stay-this-moment/#louhudson

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Thank you Tanya, such generous words at this time of focus on your mum and your last journey together Sending love to you xx

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Jul 28, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Your sucking slows, glistening nipple slides out, staying close to your partly open lips. Your breathing regular and calm. Eyelids round, lashes interlocked. Silky, tousled hair. Your heartbeat and mine.

On the breast to sleep still at almost three, I am in no rush. This primordial connection overrides the trauma of your beginnings. A longed-for, second baby…. your conception didn’t follow intimate lovemaking, but instead multiple medical interventions.

I even saw you and your sibling as multi-celled embryos magnified on a black and white monitor in a darkened room before you were placed back deep inside me. I willed you both to burrow into the walls of my womb; it was you alone who did.

I made sure your birth was far from any sterile labour ward. Riding waves of contractions in the fullness of our June garden on a balmy evening, I hugged trees and moaned at the sky. Then, into the warm water of a birthing pool in our kitchen and you emerged in your slimy, newborn way, strong and vital.

I savoured these moments every night when you drifted off gently by my side. I lay beside you, drinking in your smell, your little fingernails, your perfection.

You are grown now and away, but your room not much changed. I sometimes lie on your bed and stare at the clouds. I hug your pillow, close my eyes and am back briefly in those tender times.

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Thank you so much for joining the project and with this deeply beautiful piece. Having only experienced two heavily medicalised deliveries - one emergency c-section, the other planned for my safety - I got deep vicarious joy from your description of you labouring among the trees at evening. And I admire your certainty and your focus. I'm bringing that now to the last days of my mother, who is just a foot away from me, who I've been sitting quietly with doing nothing else for hours this week. But I was always planning and striving during my children's babyhoods, even though I was with them most of the time.

Your piece is not only a beautiful description of a memory but a gentle teaching too: how could those of us reading you be that present, that attuned...

Here is your link and I hope some of the themes from the archive will interest you to write for too. All stay open.

https://thecureforsleep.com/stay-this-moment/#eimeargallagher

Txx

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Jul 29, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Many thanks, Tanya. Life and death go together. Know you are savouring last few days of your mother; it's so hard, I know, to put your own life on hold while you await someone's death, but something you will never regret.

Sending love and warmth to you all.

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Wow, Eimear. So powerful, your story, that moment of birth and after, tearing up here! So evocative and beautiful. xs

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Eimear, I loved every moment of this memory! Our babies are truly the most precious of gifts and what an opportunity and presence of mind to birth away from the cold sterile hospital. I used to work as a birth doula and witnessed these natural births frequently but back then when you birthed, in many countries it wouldn't have been very common. I know it wasn't for me 40 years ago in a sleepy old village in Southern England. I do wish it had been different. It would have taken someone so aware, so present to know this is the way to birth (if one can of course, not all have the option and birthing centres have their place). A beautiful share x

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Appreciate your kind words, Tracey. Home births not that common 20 years ago, or now, in rural Ireland but I was close enough to a hospital to consider it safe. It was my way of taking back the intimacy that lacked at conception. Sweet memories for sure (but I remember too some loneliness and many challenges of mothering).

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You are most welcome. Yes, many sweet memories and definitely plenty of less than sweet. Challenging times, lots of opportunities for growth... a lifetime's work really.

x

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We collided. Nebulous, amorphous. Desperately pulling apart to continue on our paths. We’d each caught a comet by its tail, but too hot, too much, too soon. We lay on that embankment in the foothills of the Alps that first summer. I said I loved you because I felt it then, under the Milky Way. You didn’t respond in the dark. I blinked away tears. After a while you told me your heart had five sections, one for your dad, one for your mum, one for each of your two sisters. And one, the last, for me. I don’t know why you said it like that and I don’t know why, but something broke inside of me, the tears now, like a thaw. You held me. I wanted completion. All. Obliteration of everything come before. I don’t know why. Chaotic love, all-consuming. Later we sat together in the bar, surrounded by others. We sung Hit Me Baby One More Time, you strumming, me humming, slowly getting into my stride. I was never the star, burning bright like you were. As I joined you, my voice rose, more sure, soaring, in harmony. Your eyebrows rose, eyes wide, smiling, me now louder than you. For once. You saw me then. Not in love. In admiration. A deeper thing between us.

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Claire...how glad I am you've joined the project. This is such a word-perfect rendering of a certain type of love - or falling in love - that happens only rarely. I love how the landscape is almost a third presence in the piece: a place large enough to hold such all-consuming longing. And that last line: how beautiful: 'A deeper thing between us.'

Here is your link, and I hope it won't be your only contribution. All the previous themes stay open for your words.

https://thecureforsleep.com/stay-this-moment/#clairestorrow

Tanya xx

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Thank you Tanya. I submitted this before reading the thread so I wouldn’t overthink it, but I was struck by the number of vignettes that returned to the bittersweetness of that first love/big love. It really is a difficult but exhilarating thing to go back to. But then also it seems it was the catalyst for many of us to truly return to and recognise ourselves, no matter how long and painful the journey. Not being a parent myself, it’s been interesting to read about that other kind of “first love”. And I loved Sharon C’s take on that in-between lull before a leap into a brave new world, seemingly full of potential. I’m sorry to read that your mum passed away – your book has been instrumental in me understanding my mum and managing to re-approach her, to reach her even, to see where she was coming from, and meet her where she is. Which has then helped her to meet me where I am in ways I never thought possible. Thank you for that. Xx

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Oh Claire - how touched I am to read this from you. I so nearly didn't reconcile with my mother - and believe strongly still that there are relationships, even with parents and children, one can't risk re-entering/re-negotiating. Every situation is as different as the people within them. But if what I wrote did indeed keep you company as you revisited the relationship with your mother then I'm so glad to have offered that. xxx

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Thanks for the mention, Claire!

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Simply stunning Claire!

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Beautifully rendered.

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Aug 1, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Because the beach hut belonged to someone else my parents couldn’t change it. Because they couldn’t change it I adored it. Nothing was plastic, nylon or fake. Everything was wooden, cotton, and faded. Worn-smooth. well-loved. A telescope, striped chairs, thin towels, swimsuits with skirts. Books about birds, shells, boats.

It must have been hard for my parents to stick to the rule. After the poverty of their war-time childhoods, the gadgets, fashions and designs of the 1960s dazzled their untutored eyes and they stuffed our home with Formica, white carpet and cheap prints from the high street.

But in the beach hut, on Hayling Island’s epic shore, everything was fit for purpose and the eight-year-old me curated the space diligently. My parents and their friends slapped on oil and luxuriated in the heat, flirting gently, drinking solidly and dozing happily. I curled under the old lady’s pink eiderdown that they thought disgusting and read a paperback. I kept an eye on my parents flirtations and I suppose they kept an eye on me.

At nine-o-clock Dad wrapped the padlocks in greased plastic and we’d drive back to the neurotic suburbs where they could wreak havoc in their own home. Until the next weekend when I could rest easy in the dark wooden hut again.

Rosalyn Huxley

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Rosalyn... this piece is superb. Truly. I've come to it at the end of a week in which my mother (central to so much of my writing) died. My husband understood how blank and unmoored I was feeling this morning, by bringing my mother's copy of Cider With Rosie to me in the bed, and asking me to read aloud the Grannies in the Wainscot chapter (his favourite, and mine). He guessed it would help me remember how much good writing about real lives means to me, at this time when I can't ever imagine writing again myself, now that my mother is no longer here. And while it didn't restore to me a sense that I will write again, it did make me able to return to this project. So to find your piece here - as fine as anything in Lee - was the most beautiful reward and comfort.

It sent me back to your first quietly devastating piece for the project too.

And both pieces make me want to know, in a quite urgent way, if you are working on a longer story - essay or book length? I would so like to know as the prospect of spending more time among your stories is exciting to me.

Tanya xx

https://thecureforsleep.com/stay-this-moment/#rosalynhuxley

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Aug 7, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Tanya, thank you for this, it has touched me deeply. I have finished a book which is based on a lot of my experience but is not a memoir. It is supposed to be funny, but not grabbing any long-listing in all the competitions. I have also started a series of linked short stories called ENDGAMES about our life in the third quarter. The first one is called "The Death Cafe has changed its name."

I like the 300 word limit of your requests very much but can't see making my rather ordinary life into a full memoir. My mother’s favourite book was also Cider With Rosie and my father loved the TV version it! I participated in this project again because you made it clear that your mother was dying and I wanted to reach out as a stranger to you. I think your mother and my father would have had a whale of time!

Sending you virtual sympathy and gratitude.

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Thank you for kind words Rosalyn, and I'm so pleased to know that you are - as I hoped - writing longer work and linked stories. Do please let me know via here whenever any of these are published elsewhere as I will want to read very much. xx

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Rosalyn, this is such a beautiful and interesting read! To get to the third paragraph and discover that the beach hut was on Hayling Island was the cherry on the cake! I have some fond memories of the beautiful shore, having visited many times, before moving down here to Aus. My older brother still lives a hop and a skip away and we always end up over there on the beach when we go home to Hampshire.

Tracey x

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Nov 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you Tracy, I have not been there for years and years, but everytime I see the same blue colour that it was painted I get a warm feeling! The sand dunes there were amazing. The beach where i live now is shingly and with crumbling cliffs. Very different. There is an absorbing live webcam there - check it out West Bay, Dorset.

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Aug 2, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

In the garden of Bramhill's General Store in Plymouth, Massachusetts lies a huge fallen catalpa tree, still growing. The hulk of its horizontal trunk is shaded with homegrown leaves.

I drove past last Wednesday, from a detour to find coffee—four shots of caffeine to awaken my leaden limbs. I'd been at a veterinary ER with our cat half the night. The cat was saved but I was paying. Leveraged from a few hours of sleep, I had nevertheless driven my youngest child the fifty miles to the living history museum of the Pilgrims of Plimoth. My daughter's weeklong camp would put on a play there by the end of the week and she was on time. I could now sketch and rest and take my ease. As I drove back to the museum, the morning already pulsated with heat. Ice clacked and rattled in my latte as the narrow road bumped and curved.

The scene of the fallen tree flashed past. Two or three children clambered along the sideways trunk. The sight of the fallen catalpa yet growing and the children so carefully, bravely stepping along the curved hump—whale? wave? ocean of firm, rough bark?—sucked me from time and now and 'drive.'

"Those children are this moment making the memory that will be their definition of summer," I said aloud.

("Remember that old tree at the ice cream shop? How we used to climb along its trunk? How hot it was that summer? How the leaves still grew?")

Now, my daughter's week is complete, her play a marvel of remembering and joy.

And now I wonder, was my moment of summer any less poignant, poised on the fallen limb of parenting, fresh growth still shading me, and life still burgeoning from my old tumbled dreams?

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There is such a beautifully gentle quality to this piece, Michelle. I love how you have used the prompt to think about moments that might last in the lives of others, as well as your own. What I love in Woolf's The Waves, I get from your piece too: the interweaving of lives and the everyday sensations that last in their memory. How lovely to get this new piece from you. Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/stay-this-moment/#michellegeffken

Tanya xx

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Sep 1, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Tanya, thank you so much for giving space to the voices of so many, and for welcoming this piece from me. I must reread The Waves and think more about that interweaving of lives. It is an honor to to take part in your project. I also wanted to honor your request for connection as you comforted and gave to your mum, and now grieve her. Though I could hardly bear to reply, holding my breath on your behalf.

I love the new prompt and look forward to writing another piece. Sending love. I am sorry you've lost your mum.

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Thank you for holding me in mind Michelle. And for your kind words about what we're doing here xx

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From Michelle Geffken

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Nov 15, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

My mothering pre-school son decade was purposeful but felt Sisyphean. From the moment I bloatedly left hospital, wincing at bumps and cursing oncoming cars, it was gruelling, lonely and frustrating but I would love to go back. Do it better. Enjoy it more.

We didn’t have Mumsnet, or nearby friends with babies. We couldn’t afford good childcare. “Calpol is your friend,” said a GP passing free sachets. “Buy a bottle, as soon as you can.”

“Sleep when your baby sleeps,” wrote Penelope Leach in her baby-bible-manual But he didn’t so I drank Guinness instead willing the dark metal taste to give me strength. We kept socialising, then wondered why it was so hard to get through the next day.

The days were interminable. My husband taking longer and longer to return to a grizzling wife and slap-cheeked baby. Bliss to escape to my parents in their freshly retired life in Dorset. They had energy to lend. We could sleep, walk, breathe.

Second son was born in Dorset. We’d escaped. The first of our group. My husband got a job running an arts centre. Long hours, little money. Endless tables to move. Being lonely was bearable by the sea and I found work to squeeze around nursery, and later school.

I learned to pace myself, enjoy the Babygro-washing-line and fish fingers. The library, the school gates, the cafes had no interesting women with fringes then, but I got through. Somewhere in the storage containers is a VHS I shot of my youngest son rolling on the living room floor, trying to sit up. I hear my voice encouraging him. Resisting his warm body, not moving the cushion in his way, capturing the moment before it’s time to grab the pushchair and hurry to the school gates to pick up his brother.

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PS I can't find in my email nests our exchange about your novel. I would be happy to be an early reader once you have an agent, when the business of getting support quotes from authors begins - but before then, in the new year, I'd also be interested to see the first chapter.

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Nov 19, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Great news, I appreciate it so much. Chapter 1 is around 3000 words.

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Wonderful. I'll be in touch in the new year when I have a few days to give it my full attention. xx

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I love how you've condensed so much of those early mothering years down into this piece - giving both your particular experience and also one that has been shared by so many of us here. I read it on my son's seventeenth birthday, when I was going back through small notes on his saying and habits from birth to five, when I stopped making a record. It was powerful to feel your work then arrive and confirm my sense of how rich those years were, despite or rather because of the difficulty. Thank you. Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/stay-this-moment/#rosalynhuxley2

Txx

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Oct 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

On a beautiful clear morning in the Swiss Mountains, I am pegging out sheets to catch the early sun.

I settle into the rhythm of straightening and pegging, smoothing and aligning, making the most of every available space on the lines. The task is simple and satisfying. My mind and heart ease into a peaceful expanse as my fingers steadfastly work.

The first train of the day slowly pulls up the cog railway. I see the faces of the passengers in that brief moment, as the train passes by the hotel and my sunlit terrace. I am greeted with waves and smiles which I heartly return. Bouyed by that fleeting glimpse, I feel less alone in my task, connected in some small way to the greater unfurling of the day ahead.

The sweet simplicity of the moment swells in my chest, an outpouring of which floods through my fingertips. I feel momentarily giddy in love with the generosity of the sun. I am in delight with feelings of contentment in labour well done.

I imagine the future guests, nestling in their beds, within the sheets still sweet from the sunshine and mountain air. Perhaps they will feel the love too, that poured frrm the hands of a woman half a world away from her home who is searching for belonging.

For all the grand gestures and big moments, I break into a wide smile, for love is the small detail.

I could stay here forever.

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Oh Carole... how fresh, how clear this piece is by you. I have a special love of books set in the Swiss Mountains, and a plan to somehow find a way to live there a few months of the year from when my children are no longer at home. So this felt like a gift to read.

I honestly would read a whole book done in this kind of sensibility and setting... I'm thinking of Robert Seethaler's gorgeous novella A Whole Life, and thinking that something about life done from a female perspective in that landscape isn't something I've come across yet.

'Labour well done' what a lovely concentrated phrased that says so much. I nodded at this, smiled in recognition.

Thank you for being part of the project. Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/stay-this-moment/#carolemahood

Txx

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Oct 14, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you Tanya for your inspirations. I loved the 3 months I spent living on Rigi and the rhythm of life there. Working in the morning, sitting with the crew at a long table, sharing the delicious chef prepared lunch then afternoons wandering the mountain finding caves and waterfalls and all kinds of magic. I love you use the words "fresh and clear" like the mountain. It was during my time at Rgi that I became more aware how the sound of the land echos through the language of its people. Coming from a small pacific nation, where the indigeneous language is flowing, poetic and full of metaphor, I was able to appreciate the sound of the mountain and her people. May your heart held dream to live in the Swiss Mountains come to be xx

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