Reflections of our Tree Change

Hello again,
Today I’m  reflecting on our tree change journey over the last 18 months. We dreamt of a more nature-centred lifestyle when moving to the Adelaide Hills, and living amongst the peace of nature has certainly been fulfilled. However, we did not anticipate this leading to such an intense journey in personal growth, and finding such meaning in living with more intention and simplicity.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Lao Tzu

We have enjoyed the change to slower-paced living up in the hills. I start my day with breathing in the fresh forest air outside, sometimes with a wander around the garden or town. Rain is an event. We determine what needs to be done to secure our property if it’s stormy, and enjoy the steady rain that can sometimes persist for hours, rarely experienced when I lived near the coast. Foggy mornings are my favourite. There is something so ethereal and comforting being surrounded by a blanket of fog,  encouraging a calm and creative mood! Despite the busyness of family life, I have tried to make a habit out of intentionally scheduling in some quiet time to pause in the garden everyday. Often this means rocking in the hammock, listening to the meditative sounds of birds singing and the wind sweeping through the tops of our pine trees. While I like ‘strive’ to live in a clutter-free interior to maintain inner calm, ironically, I also find peace in our wild and rustic garden. Scattered pine needles, fallen camelia blooms and ivy wrapping itself where it can is so soothingly homely. It’s funny how nature’s cycle of untidiness is actually quite beautiful. We celebrate fallen withered leaves in autumn, but I cannot say the same for my children’s LEGO scattered in their bedroom!

We have learnt to embrace life and it’s opportunities with the changing seasons. Learning the art of letting go has provided such inner peace that I could not have imagined a few years ago. Letting go of stubborn frustration with the weather has totally changed my daily attitude. Living in Australia, warm days can seem endless in summer, but less so up here (well at least for this current strange spring and summer we have had!). We now understand why many Europeans seize warmer weather to enjoy the outdoors, hike, explore and garden. The weather determines our schedule nowadays. This new perspective has also revealed the opportunities of cold rainy days; allowing us to slow down and relax, indulge in baking, getting creative with new hobbies and wonderful family time around the fireplace. I also have started to truly love all of the seasons. However, the heat of summer still remains a little difficult, a true mountain girl lies within my heart.

Living in the hills has certainly invited vulnerability to our lives. In these past 18 months, we have experienced; two significant storms, multiple power outages, flooding within the community, local fire threats and a tree falling narrowly missing our home! This has taught us wise lessons in developing greater situational awareness within our environment. The cold up here is harsher, the fire risk greater, but being prepared living with these risks has in some respects provided more comfort, confidence and resilience. One example was the blackout the entire state experienced late one afternoon last September. Certainly a rare event like this is difficult to anticipate and prepare for. Hundreds of thousands of people returned to dark, cold homes for many hours and up to a few days. Some even experienced flooding while the blackout continued. We were also impacted but fortunately with much less discomfort as we have a fireplace and a plentiful stock of wood.  We are also less likely to be blindsided by such events. Living with greater risk motivates you to keep constant awareness of risks and situations nearby through the CFS alerts and communication within our small community. We lost power 5 times over 4 days but we were always prepared for the next outage due to the likelihood of another tree falling nearby. Despite these risks we feel comfort in a close knit community where neighbours are checked on and help is offered during these events.

Inspired by the simple living movement, we are focused on moving away from unnecessary material consumption and waste. Mainly due to environmental considerations, and the associated time wasted in the buying/ disposing cycle. As a family, we are learning to be more mindful and intentional about the little and big decisions we make everyday. One example is our decision to make Christmas decorations from garden gatherings that you can read about in the previous post here. I stumbled upon Marie Kondo’s  book about a year ago, and found her decluttering principles very effective and maintainable until now. I no longer need to reorganise storage areas periodically as her system prevents a slow build up of disorder and clutter. Buying less, having less and better storage habits has resulted in a more peaceful home with less anxiety and stress.

We feel security in using less of our resources. There is great freedom in no longer keeping up with a life of accumulation and disposal, and defining success and love by buying unnecessary things. I don’t believe buying material possessions is inherently wrong. However, choosing to only keep what truly adds value or serves a purpose has freed up time otherwise used in keeping up with trends, and the storing and maintenance of so many possessions. This is a continued journey of refinement rather than a prescribed end goal to simplify our lives. Things that serve a purpose today may need to be reevaluated in the future. Our current focus is to use what we have at home or in the garden and make, build or grow ourselves, reuse or borrow before we decide to purchase something new.

Additionally I have also focused on reducing digital clutter by removing audible and visual push notifications on social media. I don’t need to be interrupted because I have received a new ‘Like’, sounds so funny when I write that! I have unfollowed pages/accounts that are a source of negativity or no longer add value to my life. This includes pages that post too frequently such as news sites. I found I was unknowingly reading so many news articles throughout the day, developing an impulsive ‘just one more’ mentality. My digital decluttering has also included unsubscribing from email spam, deleting unnecessary digital photos, documents and apps. It is surprising how much head space digital clutter and social media can take up. When I do go online, I want to be more intentional and balanced. I really recommend you try these things if you struggle with online habits. You will see how much more time and positivity you will have in your day!

“The opposite of intention is impulse, which accurately described my former relationship with my smartphone: I acted primarily on impulse, always reacting to what my phone instructed me to do. I wasn’t using the phone—it was using me.” ~ Joshua Fields Milburn

Social media and the accessibility of our smart phones and devices can bring so much value yet burden to our lives. I certainly feel this is an area I can further refine but it is empowering to have begun this process to create more time to pursue a more meaningful life.  This new mindset is not just about having less, but more importantly removing what doesn’t hold much value to make room for things that do. I was inspired by friends who have younger children than we do, yet find time for themselves through living more intentionally. Recently I have been able to find time for more creative hobbies such as painting, learning to sew clothes and knit, baking more, plus most importantly, more engaged family time.

There is a real sense of pleasure gained from creating something for ourselves, even if we do not need to. Despite us living in this technology generation, I truly believe we still have this instinctive primal urge to make things with our hands, learn survival skills and have a connection with our natural environment. Escaping to the comforting pleasure of creating something with my hands has become a coping mechanism to life’s stress. Part of my journey living up here has relied on frequent reflection to how my Polish ancestors would have lived and survived where we live. I’m interested in developing some ‘granny skills’ that are being lost in our current generation. My goal is to develop the basic skills in DIY such as growing food, making my own cheese, cutting wood and other handy skills. I often reflect on the simple living philosophy of my late Grandfather, Dziadzio Jelek. He is the original nature loving minimalist in our family and I think he did have a very peaceful and purposeful life. He used to ride his foldable bicycle to the Belair National Park, collect berries and return home to make lovely jam. My childhood was filled with hikes in the forest with my cousin, with little more than a few boiled eggs and some smoked sausage to keep us going. They were always great adventures and I now appreciate more than ever the lessons I was taught by him.

Our last 18 months have been such a wonderful time of discovery and adapting to our new lifestyle in the hills. This year I hope to focus more on creating and learning these ‘granny skills’ which I will be sharing with you.

My goals for 2017 are to:

  • bake more
  • developing my hobbies; painting, knitting and sewing
  • gardening more and setting up a vegetable patch
  • learning better woodcutting techniques from my husband
  • organising a chicken coop
  • spend more family time outdoors such as camping and hiking
  • continue simplifying our home and lifestyle
  • read at least 1 book per month
  • share more frequent posts on my blog

We also will continue our journey living more intentionally and consciously making choices to create a life where we are surrounded by only what adds value to our life. I’m hopeful the time we gain from consuming and having less, will pave the way for these goals to become achievable plans.

Have a lovely day,

Jacqueline

The tree that fell during the storm, narrowly missing our home

The tree that fell during the storm, narrowly missing our home

My favourite rose was remarkably unscathed

My favourite rose was remarkably unscathed

Our first crop of strawberries

Our first crop of strawberries

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