First there is a mountain.

I once worked in a busy research department where I was very fortunate to be partnered with a lovely colleague, Maureen. Whereas I’m not blessed with huge reserves of patience and can get a bit ratty at times of stress, Maureen rarely lost her Zen-like state of calm.

‘First there is a mountain...’ she would say, when I was tearing my hair out, earning herself a look of sheer exasperation. What the heck did an old hippie song about a mountain that came and went have to do with my problems? Eventually, I grasped that the words weren’t about getting lost whilst hiking, but about the path to enlightenment. Or Path to Enlightenment if you’re that way inclined. I’ve heard Maureen’s voice many times this year which has felt like a constant uphill struggle and it’s reminded me to try to deal with the challenges as they really are, not as insurmountable peaks.

Renovating the house is driving me nuts; I hate the disruption and mess. But as we move from room to room using them in unaccustomed ways, I’ve got to know the place better and feel I truly live here. Seeing the flash of Bardsey lighthouse last night, and the blue hills of the Llŷn Peninsula reaching into the sea whilst we ate dinner in a different room made up for the break in routine.

One of my personal mountains this year has been a niggling health problem which has stopped me running. If I let nature take its course, I’ll be fine, so when I’m straining to get out and just burn up my frustration, I have to remind myself that there could be serious consequences if I do. It’s a valuable lesson in patience!

Work too, hasn’t been all plain sailing. After a real Second Book Battle, (first, there is a mountain) I delivered my novel in May, but with a couple of slight misgivings that I tried to ignore. Well, I’ve just received the report and now I see (then there is no mountain) that I’ve let a couple of subplots run wild, almost pushing the main characters off stage! Now it’s down to the business of putting things right (seeing the mountain with fresh eyes!).

And just as I was hoping that Ma was on the mend, she was in the wars again this week when a dustcart mounted the pavement, clipped her injured arm sending it flying upwards and caused her to punch herself in the face. My sister’s on the case with this one and we’re just relieved that Ma’s escaped with shock and bruising when it could have been so much worse. On a happier family note, we also caught up with Stepson One and his new bride and Lily and her fiancé, Russ. A wedding and wedding to come. Mountains, no mountains; life goes on.

Painting is 'High Preseli Mist' by Tom Tomos


Flowerpot said…
Chris - you really are having more than your fair share of mountains to climb this year, aren't you? I can well appreciate how you felt over Book No 2 also. Well done for being so brave - this is a really valuable post for us all. Take care xx
Jane Lovering said…
Urgh, sounds like you've had a hell of a year. But so much to celebrate in amongst the horrible stuff! (And I can sooooo sympathise with the 'difficult second novel' syndrome...) I guess 'First there is a mountain' can also translate as 'look on the bright side..'. Which is just, plain annoying when you're half way up the really craggy side.
Calico Kate said…
First there is a mountain sounds like it could be the title for your third book Chris.
Hoping that things start to run on a more even keel soon.
Lins' lleisio said…
How alike we are... I have to remind myself very often that life is a journey... not a destination.

I hope your health problems subside and your Ma (yet again) is on the road to recovery.
Shirley Wells said…
I think we should all have a Maureen at our side.

I can sympathise with the renovating (been there, done that, have the hair loss to prove it) and the second novel syndrome.

I hope your year improves soon!
Chris Stovell said…
FP, thanks - you're very kind. Thanks for cheering me up.

Jane, there's a lot of it about, I know, so appreciate the sympathy! Yep, some of those slopes have seemed pretty damn craggy!

Kate, thank you! Actually, have started #3 and enjoying it, but it has a different working title!

Lins, it's very kind of you to comment at a time when you have so much to think about. It's much appreciated. And my best to you and yours at this time.

Shirley, hello and thank you for your comment. I was very lucky to meet Maureen and be the beneficiary of all that wisdomosity!
mountainear said…
I'm with Maureen on this one - and I do know it is an irritating trait! Stuff can get overwhelming at times - but it will get done.

My mantra was 'yes, you can eat the elephant - but don't try to gobble it all at once.'
Frances said…
'Chris, I have always loved that tune! After reading your post, I'll be singing it (mostly to myself) all day.

Your house renovations will eventually be done, and the house will truly be all that you and Tom wish it to be.

Please give your mom a gentle hug from me.

It's good that you have gotten the report on novel two, and can corral those characters who want so much time on stage, or find them a way to share the stage.

And finally, please tell Tom I do like the way he handles mist.

(Sunshine is back here full force.)

Jenny Beattie said…
Oh good lord, that's enough to drive anyone to chocolate cake - here have some...

I am sending you some real life Buddhist zen from Thailand and big hugs.
Chris Stovell said…
Mountainear, thanks. I'm naturally impatient and always keen to do things in a hurry so those elephants can seem very big indeed! I'll try to think about it all getting done, but, in the meantime, about that elephant... which end do you start at?

Frances, I'm pleased to hear that you are in the sunshine again, but I'm guessing it's still fairly humid. Sorry to have given you an earworm and thank you for all your kind words.

Jenny - good to see you again. Chocolate cake, real life Buddhist zen and big hugs all VERY welcome! Thank you!
Pondside said…
You'll have that song reverberating across Blogdom - it's been ages since I thought of it.
It sounds like you've got things under control around you, but of course that doesn't mean they're under control in your head. Time for a walk on the shore and a big glass of wine and a thought for this time in six months when none of it will be in the forefront anymore.
Fennie said…
Being a Bear of (very) Little Brain I am not sure that I follow all this mountain business (Is it another sub-plot out of control? I ask, facetiously) but what the hell! I like sub-plots out of control. Life is one long series of sub-plots if you think about it as my grandfather reminded us on the occasion of his golden wedding: he and his wife had come to a pact upon their marriage in which he would take the major decisions if she took the minor ones. So far, he said, there haven't been any major decisions!

And there you have it. From mountains I have reached my grandfather and we have by-passed your real dangers and opportunities and mess and bother and expense and tedium and not being able to get out your running legs (but think - no dogs to bite you! - every cloud etc). Which I suppose brings us back to mountains for where else would you find a cloud but on a mountain top. Nevertheless, think, as I am sure you do, silver linings, and you will emerge again into the sunlight.
Preseli Mags said…
A dustcart? You're kidding! Yikes that sounds like a close shave. My respect for your mother grows. She must be made of tough stuff.

Good luck with the second book, house 'mountain' and get all better soon.
Chris Stovell said…
Sorry Pondside, another earworm victim! That's exactly it and we'll definitely need some time out soon.

Fennie, I always enjoy following your meandering train of thought, especially when you bring it back so neatly to where we began. I shall keep a look out for the silver linings.

Mags, it's a wonder she wasn't crushed - she was next to a tall wall at the time. I can't believe it either! Thanks for your good wishes... I feel in need of them!
Debs Carr said…
Ouch, your poor Ma. So sorry to hear about her encounter with the dust cart. Glad she's okay.

My godmother is the one I go to to bring my mountains back down to molehills where they usually belong.

Hope you can get back to running soon and that the house soon gets sorted. Good luck with the book too. I'm beginning to think I'll be in my dotage by the time I get published, if at all. (I can feel my own mountain nearby!)
Frances said…
Chris, let me add

Caterpillar sheds its skin, to reveal the butterfly within.

Oh Juanita, I call your name...

It's been lots of fun having this surface every now and then in those confines of my mind.

Chris Stovell said…
No Debs, you won't be in your dotage! All you have to do is keep going. I truly thought the same about my own chances... mind you, now have to pull it off again! Thanks for your good wishes too.

Oh, Frances!! I thought I'd finally managed to push that song out of my head! Now I'm stuck with the 'Oh Juanita, I call your name....' Although I have no idea what's that has to do with zen Bhuddhism.
sheepish said…
Sorry to hear that your Mother has been in the wars again, hope the bruises heal quickly. I can commiserate entirely with the house renovation blues as we still have a way to go with ours, but you do end up with the house as you want it. And as a confirmed runner I can only imagine how I would feel if I couldn't run. So hang on in there and remember all the good bits.
gaelikaa said…
Hang on in there Chris. This too shall pass.
Posie said…
Oh I could do with taking a leaf out of Maureen's book too. Been driven up the wall by the renovations here too so sympathise, we are so near to completion but it has taken its toll on the rest of the house and am so needing my nest back in order. Chris that is fantastic news about the second book, well done you for getting this far, you have done really well with all of the other upheavels. Sorry to hear about your mum, I hope she is on the mend again. Take care,
Chris Stovell said…
Sheepish, thank you. It's very comforting to think that you've been through this and know that it's like! Yes, good advice re the running.

gaelikaa, I know, but some of it's a bit of a b*gger at the moment! Still, first there is a mountain...!

Posie, it was encouraging to see how far ahead you'd got. Don't know whether we can see light at the end of the tunnel or the train coming towards us! Thanks for your kind words about the book, I feel I know where I'm going now... so just hope nothing else happens to try to derail me!!
Liane Spicer said…
You hang in there, Chris. Back when I was an avid hiker we had a saying, something about focusing on the next foothold rather than the next peak. That's the way to conquer the highest/toughest of mountains. (And you know this reminder is for myself as well.)

So glad the accident with your mum wasn't any worse.
Cara Cooper said…
Chris, I do feel for you. Years ago we had an extension to our house and I remember that they took the roof away before knocking down the walls. As I sat on the loo (yes, it was still working at that stage) in the freezing cold looking at the stars, I thought, 'never again.' A bit like giving birth though, once it was over I forgot all the bad stuff. Keep on in there girl it'll be lovely once it's done!
Chris Stovell said…
Thanks for the encouragement Liane, the only way is forward! Too late to turn back now! Good luck with those submissions too.

Thanks Cara, at least I haven't got an al fresco loo! It's nice to hear from folks who've been through the experience that you forget the pain when it's over!

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