I think sometimes we are so focussed on big things like graduations, weddings, anniversaries, holidays and retirement that we occasionally forget about the little things. There are so many stories and fables that teach us to focus on the here and now rather than things in the future. One of my favourites is the story of the Greek fisherman and the American tourist.
I am not sure of where this story originated, but it is not mine to own, just a rehashed version, that goes something like this:
A wealthy American tourist stops by a boat in a tiny Greek village and complements a Greek fisherman on the fish he has caught. The tourist questions the Greek fisherman on how long it took him to catch the fish and why he does not try to catch more. The fisherman replies that he catches as much as he needs and he spends the rest of his time resting, being with his family and enjoying the scenery. The American tourist goes on to tell the Greek fisherman that if he spent longer fishing, he could improve his catch and buy a bigger boat. Then he could spend more time fishing, employ more people and make more money.
Then he could move to Athens, London or even New York City, and from there he could direct his enterprise. The fisherman asked him how long that would take, and the American tourist responded that it would only take him 20 or 25 years. The fisherman then asked the American what would happen after he spent 25 years working 7 days a week, building his fleet, investing in stocks and making lots of money. The American responded that he could then retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with his grandchildren, spend his evenings singing, dancing and drinking with friends. The fisherman replied that that is what he did already, by only catching the few fish that he needed.
That story always made me think, and I am sure it is much longer and more involved than that. It is something I think of often. The importance of focusing on the now and the importance of the million little moments that make up a wonderful life. Then when you add in ill-health and the loss of someone close to you, you realise even more that it is the little moments that count and the importance of the now and treasuring the moments that we live every day.
There have been a few moments over the last few weeks that will be stuck in my mind forever, yet they add up to nothing really, but they are the moments that make me smile and the moments that I would like to share with Tiney, more than any other.
I was working on a new recipe for a Peach Galette last week. It had been a long-involved process that included making pastry, an almond paste, a lovely glaze for the peaches and it looked magnificent. While it was cooking, I had put some leftover lentil bolognaise and chilli soup on the stove top for our dinner. I needed to check my pastry, so I was taking it from the oven when I realised that I did not have a good grip on the pizza stone that I had put the galette on.
As I was moving it from the oven to the bench, I could feel it slipping but the stone was too hot for me to put it back in the oven. Then everything moved in slow motion as I was trying to get it on to the bench, and I could see it slipping very slowly and dividing into half while falling into both saucepans bubbling away on the stove.
There was nothing I could do to stop it. I let out a bellow of frustration as I saw my masterpiece sinking neatly into the bolognaise and the soup. Archie rushed into me to see what was wrong and we both gazed at the mess. My galette and my dinner was gone. We said nothing for a few moments and then both laughed so hard we cried. All Archie could say was ‘Good one Mumma. Tiney would have loved that one.’ Little moments.
I was talking to Al recently about the drought as he has been shocked to see how increasingly dry our little part of the world is becoming when he visits. I told him that Archie and Rissie (like many others) were now drought kids. They are too young to remember when we weren’t worried about water. When our lawn was something you could lie on rather than being a dust bowl. I find that everything feels a little dirty when you are trying to use as little water as possible. We have a tub in the kitchen sink to collect any washing up water, and the sink always feels a bit grimy.
We shower in buckets and occasionally the shower gets a bit of a smell and I have started swishing some of the shower water down the drain once a week. We are doing ‘if it is yellow let it mellow’ and I hear Rissie’s little groans of exasperation when she goes into the toilet as she hates the smell of urine. I am trying to beat our daily record of 57 litres per person a day, so one evening I told the kids to leave their shower bucket in the shower and I thought I could wash my hair in the bucket and then stand up 18th century style to wash the rest of me.
When I shower the bathroom often feels like Central Station, and as I went into the bathroom, I yelled out to the kids to not come into the shower under any circumstances. I stripped off, knelt in the shower and bent over the bucket to wash my hair. At that stage, Rissie strolled into the bathroom to see me on all fours with my lily-white arse up in the air and my head in a bucket. She was so affronted and yelled at me, “for god’s sake Mumma what are you doing? Is that really necessary?” She stomped out, slamming the door. I could hear Archie and Rissie cracking up outside the door and suffice to say that neither of them has ever ventured into the bathroom again. Little moments.
We have some sheep next door who are surviving in a dust bowl and who get fed once a day when their lovely owners visit. Archie has become obsessed with the sheep; especially now they have a few lambs. Rissie has joined him in his obsession. We have some green grass around where my washing machine water ends up and every afternoon Archie and Rissie fill a 42-litre bucket with as many grass clippings as they can find. It is probably doing little, but maybe that 15 seconds of green grass helps. I love watching Archie frenetically pulling out handfuls of grass while Rissie in comparison takes a pair of scissors and takes her sweet time probably contributing about 1 handful of grass compared to Archie’s 20. Little moments.
I love when the kids harass me to be ready to leave for school by 8.10 am so they can be at school a few minutes before 8.30 am. I love seeing them so happy, eager and confident. I love our morning and afternoon drives to and from school; they have become such a big part of my day. Such little, little moments.
The last time Al was here, he had the Friday afternoon off, so he got here early and we decided to celebrate by hitting the town. When we are at the local wine bar, I realised I had forgotten to bring my camera and I attempted to take a photo with my phone. I rarely use my phone as a camera, and I could not get a good photo. Then I thought I might post something to Instagram and by the time I tried to turn my Wi-Fi on, looked for my glasses and realised the photos sucked, I asked myself why I was bothering. The only people that I genuinely wanted to share the moment with were with me. I put the phone away and focussed on my little tribe and the outdoor fire, the wine, the food and the fact that I was out on a Friday night with those that I love. Little moments.
We are going to Italy again – we save hard for it but the process of getting there is almost as much fun as being there. We don’t do birthday or Christmas presents and the kids save up their spending money. Half of their pocket money pays for their travel insurance. I asked the kids why they love Italy so much hoping that they don’t just love it because it is a place that fills my soul. Their first response was our Italian family – we get to see Fabry, Maurizio, Leonardo and Arianna and we get to have Imy days. Then I asked them what they were looking forward to most, after the people.
Archie said he wanted to walk down the Pesce on the first morning to get some schiacciata from “our’ bakery. (The thought of that walk makes my thighs wince.). Rissie said she wanted to sit and have a gelato. Their responses hurt my soul. Because it is not the big things that they are looking forward to. One of the reasons that I love Italy so much is because it is a place where every little moment is accentuated. The thought of walking back up through the olive groves for 30 minutes with the oil of the schiacciata seeping through the paper onto my jacket, just imagining the salt on my tongue, the thought of sitting in the winter sunshine and smelling the zingy citrus of a limone gelato made me smile so much that I could feel my heart on my cheeks.
When Archie and Rissie are older and have lives of their own, I hope that they take with them some life lessons. I hope they look back and remember that their Mumma stuffed up occasionally. That there were times that she was mad as a cut snake. That our lives weren’t huge and important. But that they were filled with endless moments that lead to a magic life.