It is quite noticeable now that the hours of daylight are longer. We have also had some beautiful winter days with clear skies but with cold icy winds. However I do love these kinds of days. My bulbs in their pots are starting to show little shoots above the ground so I am looking forward to seeing these grow and bloom.
My son took me to a nature reserve I have not visited for a few years. There were lots of hazel catkins blowing in the wind so difficult to get a good photo. But from the bird hides there was plenty to see. One of the bird hides is by a feeding station and it was wonderful to see so many birds there. Goldfinches, greenfinches, chaffinches, blue tits, and long tailed tits were numerous. There were also robins and blackbirds but notably there was a wonderfully coloured bullfinch and also a bird I had never seen before a female reed warbler. I found the whole experience extremely uplifting and joyful.
There was also a small island covered with around fifty cormorants. I saw a small egret and lots of other birds whose names I did not know. But the time out in nature was good for my soul. People can underestimate the power of the natural world as they may walk along but never see anything. I am not a ‘birder’ as I look at everything as I go along. I am always on the lookout for fungi, insects, flowers etc as well as anything else that crosses my path like a grass snake last summer.
For me this time of the year, despite the cold, is a wonderful time as nature awakes and enables me a glimpse of the future. I forget about the worries of the current world situation and let myself be surrounded by the joy and colour of nature.
While writing this blog post I am listening to Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2 a piece of music I find totally inspiring and uplifting. My soul is having a good day!
Officially we are now in the winter season. I have noticed how the trees stand proud against the skyline with their bare branches. I see my hedge getting much thinner with large spaces so I can see through into the garden of my neighbour. The birds are still there but keep hopping out to feed on the conveniently placed feeder. I love the days when the sky is clear and the sun is shining. There is something special about the winter sky and the landscape around us.
But winter also has a special meaning for me It is the time when I take stock of what the year has brought me and look at how I have dealt with it. There has been a lot of sadness and grief this year and that has been hard to deal with but getting out occasionally amongst the trees has helped enormously. I have also looked at what I have achieved or not achieved as might be the case with some things. Are there lessons to be learned from this and can I do better next year. I find the winter months with the shorter days gives me more time to contemplate what has gone and what is to come in the future. I can do the stuff that I have put on one side while I have been enjoying the summer times. I can unpack the boxes still left to do since I moved earlier in the year. Maybe I will find the items I have spent hours looking for but still not found!
I also stock up on food just in case I cannot get out. I am old enough to remember the years of heavy snowfall when nothing stirred so make sure I will be OK if anything like a heavy snowfall arrives and stays with us. But most of all I am looking forward to the Winter Solstice, now in less than three weeks time, when the light returns and the hours of daylight start to lengthen. I have lots of new things I want to try next year so I shall start planning them now, making sure I will have everything I need to do these things.
So a time for contemplation, planning and enjoyment is what winter brings to me.
I love books and I am an avid reader. I much prefer to read a book than to watch the TV. So what kind of books do I read? I read all kinds of books, everyday feel good fiction for the evenings when I want to relax and more serious non-fiction for other times. I used to have a huge amount of books but had to ‘cull’ them when I downsized. Now I have more space so I have started buying books again. There is something about the smell of the paper that makes me want to read books.
One of my recent purchases is a book called ‘The Fall’ by Steve Taylor. I have only got through the first part so far but it is a very interesting read, for me at least. The sub title is ‘The insanity of the ego in Human History and the Dawning of a New Era.’ So far it has provoked a lot of thought. Why did humanity suddenly become ego oriented and get a hunger for material goods?
Ancient tribes had a great connection with nature and the land on which they lived. Some of them still do but the rest of us seem to have lost that connection, that feeling for the land beneath our feet and for all that lives on it. This morning the sunrise was stunningly beautiful and I felt so connected to it and the surrounding trees and land. I know I am not alone in this way of thinking but there are far too many people who have totally lost the connection with nature and are busy trying to destroy it and everything that lives on the earth. Do we really need more motorways and high speed trains? Why is it so important to get a journey to work a few minutes shorter? Why are we in such a hurry? Do we need more airports so we can go abroad? What is wrong with taking a holiday in your own country?
I have been abroad several times and seen some stunning scenery and some ancient ruins where my ancestors lived but I do not need to keep going there or going somewhere hot to lie in the sun or as many do going to the beach and drinking far too much. There is so much around us that is beautiful. Watch the flowers open in the sun, the bees flying around collecting pollen and the other insects with their marvellous colours and diaphanous wings. To sit quietly in a park and listen to the birds singing is wonderful and so healing and refreshing too. Let’s encourage others to do the same.
Some years ago I paid for a small grove of trees, twenty I think, to be planted in a nearby wood by the Woodland Trust. Those trees are now much bigger and I love to see how they have grown. Trees are so important to us but there are many who do not know why. They are the biggest plants on the planet, and they give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilise the soil and give life to the world’s wildlife. They also provide us with the materials for tools and shelter.
This week my son and I have dedicated half an acre of woodland through the Woodland Trust, in memory of my dear friend Simon who passed early in August. Simon and I loved trees and spent many hours over the last 20 years or so walking amongst the trees, hugging them and talking to them. So I feel the dedication of these trees is very fitting as a memorial.
There is something about trees that has always called to me. I love them all although some are more special than others. I have always loved the graceful silver birch, one of the trees that grows first after any devastation such as fire. Yet the birch always looks very delicate. I also love the weeping willow which seems to have a yellow colour when the leaves are starting to appear. One of my very favourite trees is no longer around having been felled some years ago possibly because it had become dangerous. It was an ancient beech which seemed to love having people around it and sitting on its wide low branches.
Because of my love for trees I am always happy to help in some way when they are planted and I did this some years ago when the Woodland Trust was planting a new wood. The Trust also does other things in the woodland such as preserving hedging and dead tree trunks for insect life. Do you love trees like I do? I hope so. The photo today was taken earlier in the year as I was leaving a bluebell wood. I hope you like it as much as I do. I did use it on an earlier blog but it fits this one very well and for me is worth a second look.
It has been a long hot dry summer but the last couple of weeks have brought us some rain which has been very good for the garden. One day last week I opened the door, as I do every day, to let in the fresh air and to give thanks for all around me. This particular morning was different than the previous ones. It was cooler and fresher but there was also a distinctive feel and smell of the coming autumn. It’s not something I find easy to put into words but the feel and smell is something I recognise and know that autumn is on its way.
Looking back at the days of summer I see lots of flowers, their wonderful colours still there for the coming days. I noticed the number of birds too. I have a large thick hedge at the top of my garden and it has been home to several broods of birds, blackbirds, sparrows and robins. It has been a wonderful experience to watch them grow into adult birds. This last week a sparrowhawk visited as well. Luckily all the smaller birds were safe in the hedge and surrounding bushes.
I have also noticed the large number of bees visiting the flowers. But many of the flowers are there specifically for that purpose, to attract the bees. There are not so many now but they are still coming finding other plants attractive when their favourite ones have finished flowering.
There has been a large number of different butterflies visiting the flowers especially the buddleias which are commonly known as butterfly bushes. I have also seen damselflies and dragonflies whizzing around the garden but not often settling for photos! The plum tree and the brambles (which are not really wanted as they stop other plants from growing) have done exceptionally well and I have lots of fruit in my freezer. There were so many plums that I have been giving them to neighbours. Someone said it must be the fifth year as you get an abundant crop every five years.
But what I have noticed the most is the abundance of everything. There has been wonderful colour, and food for everything that comes into the garden, and watching the birds trying to get the blackberries and plums has been entertaining at times.
So now the season is changing and there will be different things to watch and to do as well. But my main thought at this point in time is ‘Abundance!’
The other day I heard someone say that they didn’t generally get out and look at things. But do we not always look at things and not go out especially to do that? Maybe not. My thoughts at the time were about missing so much of what is out there around us. But then again I generally walk everywhere or use a mobility scooter as I do not drive.
So let’s look at what I see when I walk into town. I live on a hill which helps me to see much more of the town below me and the far distance. Generally I first notice the parked cars and people walking to work or school. Then I notice the flowers in the gardens as I pass by. I see that some are blooming now but last time I went past they were only in bud. I see the bees and the butterflies taking advantage of these flowers. In the distance I see the church and other tall buildings and in the far distance I can see the tops of houses and some trees. I cross the road and walk down the hill by the side of the cattle market complex. There are lots of shrubs by the wall of the building which houses the sheep and some of these shrubs have flowers. So there are lots of bees around. There are also many small birds which have most likely nested in the top of the building which has open sides. They chitter chatter as I walk past. There is a lot of traffic with many cars having loud music going on and also many people are walking. I wonder if they see what I see. I hear the sounds of the sheep and the cattle as they are put into pens ready to be sold. Now I am ready to cross another road into the town itself and my walk there has been full of interesting sights and sounds.
So here is another example. One day I was sitting in the town park watching the ducks with their tiny offspring on the pond. The ducklings were busy exploring the plants on the pond and then when they were tired they came out and curled up to sleep at the side in the bushes. There were also moorhens with their youngsters but they seemed to prefer a different part of the pond. The gentle breeze made the branches of the trees move and rustle and birds flitted amongst them. There were ripples on the pond caused by the ducks and moorhens as they swam around. I occasionally caught sight of a few damselflies and butterflies too. Across the other side of the pond a man was sleeping on a bench. While I was there he got up and walked away. I could hear the traffic on the main road but it did not really disturb the peace of the pond.
There are so many people who walk around and do not see what is around them. They never look up or down for that matter and often have a mobile phone by their ear. What a lot they are missing!
What do you see?
Staying calm can sometimes be extremely difficult in the world of today. There is so much going on in the world around us as well as in the wider world and there is so much pressure to do this or do that or be that way not the other way and so on.
Many years ago when I was first working with the Reiki energy I learned to stop and take deep breaths when I was getting worked up about something or pressured into doing something that I knew was not right for me. I also gave myself a boost of the Reiki energy. But not everyone can do this so how can you stay calm when you need to be calm?
I find that just stopping whatever I am doing and looking around me at the world of nature outside my window calms me down. I love to watch what is going on outside the window in my garden. I can see butterflies and damselflies and lots of flying insects all busy about their daily work.
But what if you don’t have a garden outside your window but have noisy traffic and other sounds. Then you have to find a place in your imagination where you can go to when you need peace. Have you been on holiday somewhere or on a day out where you have found a place you really like and feel at peace there? This is the place you go to in your imagination when you need to feel calm and peaceful. It can only be for a minute but it will help. It is the stopping what you are doing and taking a few seconds or minutes out that does the trick. Don’t think of what is getting to you but think of the peaceful place you love. If you do this regularly then you will feel much better and get less stressed by everything that is going on. You will be more able to go with the flow of things as they occur and deal with them in a much easier way. So take a few minutes out at intervals during your day and see how much difference it can make.
Here is a photo taken in my garden this week.
Hope is a word we use a lot. ‘I hope you are well’ or ‘I hope you get what you want’ are two examples. There are many more as I am sure you well know. But what do we mean by ‘hope’?
Generally in the cases above it is a feeling of expectation or a desire for something to happen. In some cases it is merely wishful thinking meaning ‘I’d like you to be well’ or ‘Id like you to get what you want’.
But hope can be seen as a capability to motivate ourselves and others in order to reach goals that we want but these have to be realistic of course. So many of us hope for things to happen that are definitely not realistic or to have things that we are never going to have.
However hope is important and can help people to get better when they are ill. If they believe they can get better then hope will help them to do so. If you are hopeful then you are also optimistic. Hope gives us the ability to see possible good in the future. Hope can make you feel positive and can improve your health. Hope creates self worth and gives you the strength to keep going. Hope gives you motivation which enables you to do things you had not known you could do.
Hope allows you to approach problems with your mind set on success. If you have hope, you can face the most negative times in your life with positivity. Hope therefore improves your mental health. Hope allows you to see opportunities in challenges; we often say ‘Look on the bright side’.
Here is a quote from Emily Dickinson ‘Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul — and sings the tunes without the words — and never stops at all.’ And one final quote, author unknown, ‘Hope is the dream of a soul awake’.
We are often told not to look back but to be ‘in the now’ or to look forward to the future. But there are various reasons why we can look back and times when it is good to look back.
I like to look back at my life journey so I can see what I have learned, or not learned as the case may be, so I can decide what I need to do next. I can reflect on my journey so far. I also like to look back in history to see how countries and people have changed over the centuries.
Looking back at my life can also bring to mind some wonderful memories, some which I have shared with others and some when I have made journeys alone. Yesterday I went out with my son and his partner to a local, wildflower farm. The sun was hot, the sky a clear blue, the flowers colourful and the butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies were out in abundance and stunningly beautiful. Tea and cake added to the day and it will be a day to remember when in years to come, I cannot get out to enjoy nature.
In my history/genealogy research, I am of course looking back, but I try to find out what life was like then, what people wore, and how they lived so that I am in a way bringing them alive. It enables me to see how much our world has changed in the last three or four hundred years.
So looking back for me is important. It enables me to make changes in the way I live my life and it also enables me to see how I do things differently than my ancestors. Do you look back and if so do you reflect on what you see? Does it help you to change the way you do things now? Does it help you to find out what is important in your life as it does in mine?
Here is one of the dragonflies from yesterdays memories.
The sun is shining and it is quite warm. It makes me feel so much better. This week I have watched a family of plump baby blackbirds learn to feed themselves getting worms out of the ground and now they have flown off to make new lives for themselves. As blackbirds have more than one brood I suspect the parents are now getting ready for the next brood.
I have also seen a pair of goldcrests which look as if they are nesting close by. They come into the garden several times a day. And there are many butterflies including some orange tipped ones.
There are also lots of other garden birds too and plenty of insects of various kinds. A question posed by my son yesterday has made me do some thinking. How do the butterflies know which plant to lay their eggs on. Some butterflies only lay their eggs on specific plants so how do they know they have the right plant? The more I look at the natural world around me the more I am amazed by it and the more I realise that I don’t know about it.
I’ve also seen quite a few bees which is good. I am trying to make my garden friendly for bees and other insects but it is going to be a long job as I am limited in how long I can work in the garden at one time. But at least I have the joy of sitting and watching what is going on in the garden and that makes me feel very blessed.