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Making Lemonade #7: Lemonade doesn’t just grow on trees

Planning for a better future

Cross-posted from Substack. View original post

Hey friends,

I hope you’re all having a wonderful November and aren’t getting too swept up in the madness of the season.

I always find November a really strange month – more so than any other month, really, and not just because of the Black Friday malarkey, which feels like the January sales of my youth on steroids.

But no, it’s actually because my body memory feels like it’s telling me I should be cold and need to prep my stores for winter – even though it’s been six years since my last proper autumn/winter, and even though my physical reality (we’re in the midst of a heatwave here in Western Australia) couldn’t be any further from that.

It doesn’t matter that this will be my eighth “hot Christmas”, I still can’t get my head around people talking about putting up Christmas trees and drinking Baileys and hitting the beach in the same breath. It just doesn’t quite fit right.

My body and my mind are fighting it, and I’m caught in the middle.

The most festive thing we did at my little pirate beach bar in Cambodia was procure a TV, put on Santa hats, drink Baileys, and watch the Nightmare Before Christmas. 10/10 would recommend. (Otres, Dec 2014)

I honestly wonder if I’ll ever get used to the change in my body from moving to the literal other side of the planet or if it’ll always feel a bit off, like one of those things you feel but can’t put your finger on.

I have an inkling that despite having now resided in Australia for almost longer than anywhere else in my adult life, it’ll always feel a little strange – home with a twist. 

Part of me wonders if that’s just because I don’t think I’ve ever felt truly at home anywhere, especially when I don’t know what’s around the corner.

These last few years, I’ve tried to make home a place, but just like the seasons, my body keeps fighting it. It’s wiser than me, in a lot of ways. It knows that home is a feeling, and trying to pin that to four walls or a spot on a map takes away the beauty of it; the magic and clarity that comes from understanding this whole planet is our home, and all the people on the planet are our neighbours.

When we zoom in and limit ourselves to one geographical location, it makes it easier to stop caring about the well-being of the rest of it. To put the blinkers on and focus on what’s in front of us, not what’s going on around us.


Although I’ve somewhat shied away from talking politics on this specific platform (you can follow me on Insta for more of that), everything feels a little off these days.

We’re currently in the midst of a record-breaking November heat wave in Australia, with out-of-control bushfires a bad sign of what’s to come. This year has also been the hottest on record, globally. And, if it isn’t enough to burn down the planet beneath our feet, we’re watching some serious human rights abuses unfold in front of our eyes.

Add into the mix an even more ramped-up Black Friday and it feels like there’s a big disconnect between this whole “business as usual” and “the planet is burning and we’re hellbent on destroying each other” thing.

Maybe that’s what feels off. Sometimes I wonder if I accidentally took Neo’s Red Pill from the Matrix — or at least unplugged myself from it when I left the UK all those years ago.

This pretty much sums up how I feel about life right now (copyright: KC Green, 2013)

Either way, the noise is loud, and it feels like it’s only getting louder. Even the local hardware store (who famously never do sales) have been emailing me about Black Friday. Checking my emails this week has felt like wading through quicksand filled with a thousand promotional “it’s now-or-never”, “run, don’t walk!” emails.

Every time I pick up my phone, I feel an intense desire to throw it out the window and run off into the sunset. Unfortunately, though, it’s also my connection to my family, my friends, and my work, so it wouldn’t really solve much. The problem feels a little more systemic.

I’m also absolutely aware that this email is going straight into your also most-likely overflowing inbox right now so thanks for sifting through and reading it. I appreciate it more than you’ll ever know!

I don’t know about you, but it feels harder than ever to switch off at the moment. To take a step back and see the wood through the trees.

To understand the difference between the temporary pleasure you get from scoring a great bargain and the pleasure of building a life you love and feeling at home in yourself, your body, and where you’re at in your life and in the world.

Not too dissimilar to the red/blue pills in the Matrix, one promises you a quick, too-good-to-be-true fix, while the other needs some actual work. And by that, I don’t mean money-earning work, but more the sort of mental gardening we’ve talked about before: planting the seeds. 

The best thing about feeling at home in yourself is that you also start to feel at home everywhere. (Death Valley, Sept 2018)

It takes, on average, between 3-6 years for most lemon trees to bear fruit. That’s 36 to 72 months of nurturing and nourishing your growing sapling with the hope that one day it will reward you with lemons. 3-6 years where anything could happen to stand in the way of that tree and its fruit, but we still give it a chance. We still show up with our watering can, day after day.

I wish we could say the same about ourselves.

If you think about it, we’re our own greatest asset. But, just like we give that label of home to four walls and a roof, instead of our planet and its oceans and beaches and mountains and rainforests, we limit ourselves to quick fixes and short-term investments, expecting to see year-on-year financial growth – while often overlooking and minimising our own personal growth. 

We’ve been so conditioned to look for a good bargain. To focus on what’s in front of us and our five/ten-year asset-building plan; so focused on results and quantifiable growth that we’ve almost forgotten what it means to be human.

To strip away all the things that we think we need, and focus on those we actually do. Things like: love, community, connection, and a safe place to lay our heads to sleep. 

Of course, living in a capitalist society means some of those things have to be bought, and we need to have a way to earn money to be able to buy them – and with the cost of living going up year-on-year, we need to be able to earn enough to match that, at the very least. I know that isn’t easy, especially in my own freelancing world.

But when it comes to things we’d like but don’t need, it’s another story. I try to let the way I spend my money reflect my values as much as possible. I try to buy from small, sustainable companies that have clear mission statements, use recycled materials, and are on a quest to do good with the world.

I try to eat a mostly plant-based diet. I try to take my reusable coffee cup when I get coffee. I try to buy produce in season and limit the air miles my food and products travel before they get to me. It blows my mind that half the things you buy at the supermarket have travelled more than most people will in their entire lives.

Every day, I try to get outside to remind myself why this world’s worth fighting for

In Japan, there’s a philosophy known as Hara Hachi Bu, which roughly translates as eat until you’re 80% full. Originating from the island of Okinawa, it’s been credited by the residents there as the secret to their longevity, but it can also be easily applied to other areas of your life, too.

Like shopping, for example. I’m absolutely guilty of buying things I don’t need just because they’re on sale, but then they just sit there on a shelf or in a cupboard and never get used. How many little treats tip the scales from little treats to big treats? And how many will we even remember by Christmas?

Are we filling ourselves up until we’re 80% full, or are we stuffing ourselves just because we can?


On the end of the spectrum, I was talking to a friend this week about Christmas trees and how it seems like a lot of people have put up their trees as a way to counteract the s**tshow that is going on in the world right now with a little more sparkle and fairylights.

It feels like such a simple, inoffensive way of inviting more happiness into your life and eking out as much of the red, green, and gold-tinted seasonal shine as possible – rather than just conforming to the somehow “socially-agreed” limitations that you shouldn’t put your tree up before December and leaving it up past January 6th is absolute sacrilege.

Who makes these rules anyway?!

This is pretty much the extent of my usual Christmas cheer/decorations, but I’m going to try and turn my Scrooge frown upside down this year

I’m really not a big fan of Christmas – mostly for the aforementioned hyper-consumerism stuff – but even a Scrooge like me is on-board with the idea of extending pleasure for as long as possible. Especially if it means breaking rules.

It’s why I quit my job and travelled so slowly (and on such a budget). It’s why I’m all for investing in things that last, not quick fixes and good bargains to fill the void in my heart — although I must admit sometimes still get swept up in the chaos of it all, too. But still, imperfect action is still better than no action, right?!

It’s why I love planting and watering seeds and watching them grow into something beautiful. And even though I grumble a lot about watering my garden – especially now the Mercury is over 40°C – I also love the idea that I’m watering the seeds of my own future.

Home may not just be where I am, but it’s also where I choose to invest my energy, my time, and my resources in the hope that one day it’ll all bloom into something better.

It’s why thinking of myself as my home and my lemon tree has helped me flip my perspective from thinking joy has to be earned to thinking of it as a fundamental human right – one that helps nourish us and give us what we need to keep on going and growing, even if it might be years or decades until we start to see the results.

Sowing the seeds for my future with a coffee and a journal

In the same way people build houses, I’m working on building myself a home for the future. Unlike building a house, though, it doesn’t require a big investment or a lot of work and upkeep.

Just a simple daily check-in, a rough plan for how I want my future to feel rather than the things I want in it, and a desire to reconnect deeply with what it means to be human — and what that means about protecting this planet that is our communal home and all the people who live on it. Which, right now, feels more important than ever.

Here’s to eking out all the joy from every little thing – and loving our planet and our fellow people so deeply that we can dream of a world that nourishes everyone and our collective home far better than we have right now.

Thanks for dreaming with me.

I love you,

Cassie


This week I’m:

Reading – I finished two books this week, The Art of Happiness: a Handbook for Living by His Holiness the Dalai Lama & Howard C. Cutler, and A Year of Living Simply: the Joys of a Life Less Complicated by Kate Humble.

I loved the Art of Happiness, I’d probably give it 8/10*s, but I wasn’t sold on A Year of Living Simply. On paper, it sounded like my thing, but in reality it was a person jetsetting across the country and the world to meet others who were doing things in pursuit of a simpler life. And while I love that ethos too, it just didn’t feel like it was what it said on the tin. 4/10*s.

Writing – I’m finishing up an article on ghost towns in Tasmania that I’m really excited about. I love writing about ghost towns and one of my articles about ghost towns here in WA went viral so we’re now doing a series! Fingers crossed I can take it global one of these days.

Doing – I’ve been working hard this month on several different projects! I’ve finally launched two websites I’ve had in the works for a long time: cassiewilkins.com and wildandfreeroadtrips.com.

The former is my writer/mentor/personal website, with my portfolios and information about my work and who I am. A little home for me on the Internet. The second is a dream that’s been a long time in the making; a home for all my road trip adventures, stories, itineraries, tips, and advice.

I’ve hit a bit of a snag with photos, though. So this week I’ve been trying to find photo management and organisational systems that work for me. I’ve decided on XnView MP and Mylio Photos to manage/upload/sort, and then Lightroom to edit. Finding photos for these Substacks is one of the trickiest parts, so here’s hoping this helps with that too!


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