This morning I walked along Port Philip Bay in Melbourne in icicle air. The sun was out and the water was glassy. Clouds bobbed on the horizon, and in the foreground pocked rocks were exposed by low tide.

It was a morning after.

Yesterday I attended a memorial service for a shining, sixteen-year-old, fair-haired sprite. It is not for me to try to tell her story here. I didn’t know her – hadn’t seen her since she was a toddler – and it would be presumptuous of me to write about her. But her mum talked afterwards about how her daughter had changed people’s lives, and I realised that her death had changed me in the past week.

Death does that. It forces us to face that lurking truth – the inevitability we ignore in order to skip through our living days. But we are also offered an opportunity to realign our priorities, and to see with eyes that are open.

In recent weeks, I’ve been so grateful for the professional adventures I’m having. I love hearing the stories and reflections people tell after they have read the book. I love meeting readers – we are compañeros, we of the book. I love the thrill of all these discoveries.

But this week of death, as well as near-death and illness, made me realise that it is the “ordinary” things that cut deep: looking into the eyes of an old friend as she talks about her new venture, both of us warming our hands on coffee cups; watching as rotten weatherboards are torn from our house, and being glad of the banging of the hammer, knowing I will once again feel protected within these walls; pruning the ends off winter roses, in expectation of a flush of red and white in summer…


Breathing in and breathing out, trying to stay aware of the ordinary miracle that is life. Sitting here, tapping on a keyboard, planning to put the kettle on when I’m done and make a cup of tea, and stretch my back in the afternoon sunshine.



Breathing in and breathing out,  as I whisper words of Spanish under my breath in preparation for an event at the Cervantes Institute this coming week, where I hope to speak about stranger-kindness and friendship.


Breathing in and breathing out, listening to the scratching of birds’ footsteps on the tin roof, watching shadows move across walls, feeling the pleasure of only one layer of clothing on my skin, and anticipating the baring of my arms in a month or three…


Breathing in and breathing out. Assuming I will be here tomorrow. Next week. Next month.

Aware that it is not a given.

Breathing in and breathing out.

Glad. So glad.

For life.


Thanks too, to you who read these words, particularly if you visit regularly, and even more so if you are a subscriber. They are offerings in the ether, and I am grateful when they land. Thank you for your indulgence, and for walking this camino with me.

5 thoughts on “Breathing in and breathing out

    1. Thanks so much Stel. And I love that we can be instantly connected across so many miles. Isn’t the world astounding?

  1. Beautiful reflections, as always Ailsa. And especially pertinent this week, with the sudden death of a dear friend at the age of 63.

    1. I’m so sorry Andrew. Deep sympathy to you. I hope you have been able to remember your friend in the right way, and that there has been some comfort in that. My thoughts go out to you.

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