Sightlines by Kathleen JamieThe day is full of sweeping showers, gliding in, down, and away again. Shafts of pale wintery sunlight beam out of breaks in the clouds, illuminating the landscape in an affectionate glow. The trees are sodden, creating a fine black fretwork through which to glimpse the river. The river itself reflects the daylight like the bright shining tail of a phoenix streaking across the dark muted tones of the water-logged landscape around. We tried to go for a walk along the river bank this week but the water is an unpredictable beast at times like this. It is full and thick as it bubbles and heaves at a rate of knots. We can’t see the bottom for the churning silt and debris. Our pooh sticks from the bridge are dragged under and away before we have time to turn. The gentle burns that pay tribute to our river have become ferocious rapids, multiple times their usual size. One wrong foot and we’d be swept in.

I’ve been feeling thoughtful this new year. Recently I read this quote from W. H. Auden:

“Between the ages of twenty and forty we are engaged in the process of discovering who we are, which involves learning the difference between accidental limitations which it is our duty to outgrow and the necessary limitations of our nature beyond which we cannot trespass without impunity.”

It feels like a pretty good summation of 2013 for me. Apparently John Updike once said that he wanted to be remembered as someone who did the best with what he had, as someone who made up for a lack of brilliance with diligence (never mind that he was in fact brilliant!). Before this year I would have been engaged in living out the second part of that thought, that diligence makes up for most shortfalls. But now, it is the ‘doing the best with what you’ve got’ bit that strikes me. And I think that might be to do with seeing, not only the limitations it is futile to lock horns with, but perhaps more importantly, what preciousness exists within those limitations. I’ve been reading Kathleen Jamie’s Sightlines. If you enjoyed Tove Jansson’s Winter and Summer Books you’ll love this. She is a woman who sees. She challenges me in 2014 to see and thereby, hopefully live a little better.

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