Masking-up in Western Australia has been with us on and off for months. After a year of freedom from this practice, at first we found it hard. And it continues to be a difficult duty we perform for our own good and that of others. However, older women seem to have a more difficult time than most.
For the first year of the pandemic, we relied on lockdowns, social distancing, washing our hands red raw and cleaning ad nauseum. We stayed home when sick and got tested for the disease. Bemused, we watched the citizens of other, less lucky, countries. They wore masks everywhere.
Practising kindness really can improve our wellbeing. We all know that eating a healthy diet, exercising and getting enough sleep are essential for our health. So, too, are not smoking or drinking too much alcohol. And, as scientists have recently discovered, getting up and moving rather than sitting too long provides benefits. So does improving how fast we walk, especially as we age.
Now we can add being kind to the list of life-enhancing habits we can cultivate.
Reset time in my calendar usually takes place at the beginning of January. This year, however, did not go according to plan. The tragic death of my daughter, Anne, on 27 December 2020 threw any plans I may have had for 2021 into disarray.
Grief and mourning take their toll. Unrelenting, they extort enormous energy from those who suffer loss. Disbelief and denial, anger, bargaining, questioning and depression follow each other in rapid succession. They repeat themselves over and over as a person tries to come to terms with a major loss. They leave exhaustion and lethargy in their wake.
Rediscovering craft and the joy of making things occupies my time. Once a prolific knitter, dressmaker, quilter, gardener, I stopped making things. I don’t know why, but increasing arthritis probably made it a challenge. Instead, creative pursuits that involved writing rather than making, occupied my time.
I suspect I’d uncover a major debate about the merits of creativity and craft if I chose to look for it. But today, I’m going with my hunch that craft is creative and fun. And choosing to enjoy it for its simplicity.
In The Smokehouse, Melissa Manning provides eleven short stories. This debut collection of intertwined stories showcases the skills of the author. A lawyer, Manning grew up in Tasmania and now lives in Victoria. Each of the stories reads well, either alone or as part of the whole. In addition, the first and last can be read as a single narrative with a haunting theme of love and disappointment.
The performing arts in all their variety, beauty and wonder have nourished my mind and fed my soul. If you throw reading (fiction, non fiction, poetry, history etc.) into the mix, I’m indeed blessed.
During my childhood, I longed to perform. But performance, a lisp and my inherent shyness sat uncomfortably together. It quickly became clear I’d never be an actor, singer or dancer. Art eluded me, also, but that’s another story.
Social life for eighty-years-olds includes visits from family, coffee with friends and meeting in groups for craft activities or exercise. Bus trips and overnight sleepovers give older people enjoyment and so do competition cards, bingo and bowls. Anything done with other people benefits us, and some things more than others. Some outings make us tired. Others energise us.
Events often take me by surprise. A marathon of fun last week delighted and enlivened John and me. We thought we’d be tired by the end. We were. But we’ll do it all again, whenever invited.
The Children, by playwright Lucy Kirkwood, entertains and provokes serious thought. On one hand, it can be viewed as witty and endearing. But The Children also carries a powerful message. It challenges the audience to think about responsibility between generations, and restitution for wrongs.