My work here at Monkey Map is done. More on that later, first the photograph.
I took this photograph, in June 2013, so nearly three years ago. No – it contains no monkey puzzle trees. It’s in Anglesey, near South Stack. Me and Ronnie are walking on the cliffs, I am observing the wildflowers, the squill is in profusion. It’s a perfect summer’s day. I looked down to the sea and saw these six colourful kayaks, gliding effortlessly across the water. And, even without thinking or trying to rationalise what I was about to say, I said:
‘I want to do that.’
It wasn’t a ‘I quite fancy that’ sort of statement, but a very positive, definite desire. It was said with passion.
We visited Anglesey this weekend. I was reminded (again) of the sea kayaking ‘moment’. Of how much I love Anglesey, the water, the sea, the beach.
We walked to Llanddwyn, the island off Niwbwrch, a very special place. We reflected on previous visits, and how much we love it here. And how lucky we are that it is relatively accessible, just a two hour drive from Liverpool.
I didn’t consciously not pursue the sea kayaking. Life happened. So did work. I am self-employed, I work hard as a funeral celebrant. I am connected to life and death. And my work is a constant reminder that life is short. That there is a limited amount of time. It reminds me that I am just a speck in the universe. I feel this very keenly when I take time out to reflect. A phenomenal breast cancer advocate died this week, I was part of that community for several years. I don’t need the reminders of my breast cancer sisters dying to reinforce the fact that it could be me. I know that. I have spent hours of my life in hospital and waiting rooms (and so has my beloved Ronnie).
I love my work, but stopping is essential, and I am currently taking some time off, a holiday, which is giving me time to reflect. To stop. And to do my first sea kayaking course in Anglesey. I have started kayaking this year, closer to home on the river Dee near Chester. It brings me great joy and there was a moment last week with the sun low and glinting golden in the spray from my paddle, that all felt right and I had a sense of finally doing ‘this’ passion – at last.
And, in this stopping, I realise that my work here, at Monkey Map, is done. I asked for suggestions for help at the beginning of this year as the reality is the amount of work involved is too time consuming – although it also is a lot of fun too. I haven’t found a solution which will keep the Monkey Map going in this current form. I have a separate folder with various lines of exploration I have taken, but no solution, and no energy to explore that anymore.
Last year I had several months not working following a car accident and had plenty of time to give my full attention to the Monkey Map. My life is not like that now – I am ‘back’ enjoying a sense of ‘normal’, normal for me which I am ready to grasp fully and eagerly. I recognise what ‘normal’ means, as having been both a breast cancer patient and a trauma survivor, I know that normal doesn’t always return, and the return has been hard gained for me – on both occasions.
I am the sort of person who likes to do things fully and properly and to my own self-imposed exacting standards (I am used to myself after 52 years of being such a pedant). So ‘half-doing’ the Monkey Map wouldn’t be my way. It isn’t giving me pleasure to spend days each month doing the Monkey Map – and it does take days (not a few hours) each month to keep up with the amount of entries. My ‘to do’ folder keeps growing, and the thought of spending hours at the computer to sort it out doesn’t bring me great joy anymore. It is time for me – and my 3,693 monkey puzzle trees – to stop.
I am done, all mapped out. So this is not, please realise, another request for help. I have completed my Monkey Map project.
I have always only wanted to pursue work and activities I love. Not just sea kayaking, but everything that fills my heart with joy – my work, gardening, walking, cooking…. I have always wanted to fully immerse myself in the activities I love. It means I can’t do everything, none of us can. It means we make a choice about where we put our energy.
‘It means for me, knowing that my work is part of a continuum of women’s work, of reclaiming this earth and our power, and knowing that this work did not begin with my birth nor will it end with my death. And it means that within this continuum, my life and my love and my work has particular power and meaning relative to others.
It means trout fishing on the Missisquoi River at dawn and tasting the green silence, and knowing that this beauty too is mine forever.’
Thank you Audre Lorde.
And thank you to everyone who has helped the Monkey Map become this amazing catalogue of 3,693 trees, all you Agents, Twitter friends and blog readers. But the exciting aspect of the Monkey Map is the looking, the observing and the connecting to the natural world. Never forget that.
And that life is short.