I'm currently enjoying a week's annual leave from my day-job while writing more of Fabian. I've also been busy in the garden while I've both the time and the weather for it. Some of the borders were looking rather neglected, so I've been weeding and pruning and re-shaping the edge of the lawn where the divide between lawn and weedy mess had blurred. The contrast between sitting still, other than from fingers tapping at the keyboard, and thinking creatively and analytically as I write, and moving around with tools, a bucket full of dug-up roots and pruned, leggy stems or fronds of invasive ivy, is marked. It still requires analytical and creative thinking but of a different kind, (for eg., I'm planning to put in more spring bulbs this autumn, and move a young buddleia before it gets crowded by the holly tree, and can see that the forsythia needs pruning back now its buttercup-yellow petals are strewn on the ground).
Gardening can be a form of moving meditation. Simply be aware of the movements needed to do the job, of the feel of leaf and soil, and of what you can see - such as the delicacy of poppy seedlings, the colours of last winter's leaves lying on the soil, the little red shoots along the stout branches of a shrub which was cut back hard last autumn, of the sound of insects buzzing and birds foraging, or of the quiet splashes of the solar-powered fountain which seems to work only when it wants to, no matter how much sunshine's around.
To turn gardening into meditation, you don't need to do anything clever or buy any 'new age' gewgaws. Just live in the moment, be aware of your movements, of the flow of your breath as you work; be aware of everything you can see, hear and smell. Be in the Here and Now and be aware of how you feel and of the nonsense that swirls through your brain non-stop - and simply remain self-aware, an observer of yourself at work. Then keep at it.
This morning I finished reading Helen Dunmore's novel, The Siege, which I highly recommend. Its skilled and beautiful use of prose tells a story of love and survival set against the backdrop of the siege of Leningrad (now St Petersburg). The author cleverly combines actual history with a sensual, almost poetic view into the terrible plight of people facing death from starvation and hypothermia, and their incredible drive to stay alive despite being surrounded by frozen corpses, diminishing rations and the increasing threats of violence and cannibalism. I've read many of Helen Dunmore's novels, and continue to admire her writing style.
Totally different in mood, but also recommended, are the two fantasy books by Karen Miller which I recently finished, which are Innocent Mage and Awakened Mage (also seemingly titled Innocence Lost, depending on region). You get down-to-earth, well-rounded characters doing practical, believable things, but with a splash of fantasy-magic in addition. A great read, in my opinion; real page-turners. I haven't read any of this author's work before but I'll be doing so again.