environment

Give Thanks

Spiritual thoughts come from many different directions, and I think this year so far I've turned to a few in this daily blog. 

Today I turn to the wisdom of a man called Tecumseh who lived in the late 18th and early 19th century in what is now 'America'.

He was a chief of the Shawnee tribe and a warrior who resisted the expansion of the United States onto Native American lands. He wanted to draw  the different tribes to his cause so he travelled widely trying to encourage different indigenous peoples to support the resistance to the expansion of the 'incomers' who were determined to take over their lands. This resulted in a Native American confederacy and although his efforts to unite Native Americans ended with his death in the War of 1812, his legacy did not die with him. Tecumseh has become an iconic folk hero in American, Indigenous, and Canadian popular history.

Native Americans were and are a very spiritual people, with a culture, philosophy and spirituality close to the land and nature, animals and the universe, and although Tecumseh and his peoples lived so long ago and in very different times, some of the thoughts that have been handed down through the centuries are profound and are really pertinent to our circumstances today. They go to the heart of what it is to be 'human' and that is so thought-provoking.

So, for this Saturday, here's one of those wise Native American thoughts ... attributed to Tecumseh himself.

Once you've asked yourself these challenging questions ... Have a happy day !

Saturday thanks


A Time for Everything

We've had a lovely weekend in Jersey, with lots of sunshine and the temperatures still warm. It's been glorious!

But last night, for the first time, it felt like there was a nip in the air ... and what with the leaves beginning to turn, it really feels like summer is turning to autumn.

I'm reminded at times like this that each season of the year brings with it challenges and joys. Autumn, or Fall, brings harvest and a reminder of what the world has to offer, so long as we take care of it. 

Autumn is also a time of preparation for winter, when we maybe hunker down a bit ... well I do anyway. A time to maybe not rush around quite so much as I have in the summer. A time to appreciate home.

Every season of the year, every time of our lives, brings with it responsibilities,  demands on our time, periods of rest and recuperation, work and life, family and fun. As we grow older, I am finding, life takes on new perspectives. The dreams I had as a young person are now no longer so 'essential'. The sky won't fall in if I don't get all I want! I no longer worry much about what people think of me. I find myself becoming aware of the need to use the time left to me wisely, rather than worrying about things I cannot change. 

Time is a precious thing. Every day I learn a little more about that. And although I still yearn for a bit of 'adventure' in life, these days good health and good friends, love and security are the things I find myself cherishing  ...

Oh ... and a good night's sleep! 

In the Bible, in the Old Testament, in the book of Ecclesiastes, there are some words which talk about there being 'A Time for Everything' ... it pertains not just to people but also to nations and nature. It reminds us to use time wisely. As I said before, to cherish the moments we have been given. 

The words are encouraging, and challenging, and worth reflecting on. And at the beginning of a new week, it's worth thinking about.

I love the poetry of passages like this ... glorious!

Not sure what 'season' this is for you ... but as you read this maybe you'd like to think about your dreams and wishes and wants, priorities and the passage of time.

Be blessed!

There is a seasonA Time for Everything

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

(Ecclesiastes Ch 3: verses 1-8)

 


And .... breathe

If you know a bit about me, you'll know that I love to swim in the sea.

I find it so relaxing, and so good for my mental health. The exercise, of course, is great but it's also such a calming experience, as you feel the water on your skin, the breeze on your face and, if you're lucky, the warmth of the sun on your skin.

In the summer time I do swim as often as possible, and it's been a joy this week to get in a few dips ... in between the hours at the computer ... working as a freelance writer and also concentrating a lot on researching and writing a new book.

Ouaisne Bay Sept 2021We have lots of beautiful beaches and bays here in Jersey in the Channel Islands - some rocky coves, and some beautiful stretches of glorious sandy beaches. 

One of my favourites for relaxing and swimming is Ouaisne Bay in the south west of the island ...it's at one end of a very popular tourist beach - St Brelade's Bay - but usually much quieter.

This week I managed to get a dip there ... and it was glorious. A great opportunity to ... just breathe really.

The sound of waves gently crashing on the shoreline can take me to a different place and can really help with my anxiety and stress levels. I find the sound of the sea so soothing and so good for 'de-stressing' my life.

So today, I just want to share some of those sounds with you and hope they will help you to.

Filmed at Ouaisne Bay this week.

Have a great weekend and ... stay chilled!

Enjoy!

 


 

 

 

 


Welcome September

It's September! The start of a new month!

Time is flying by ... the summer is almost done and autumn is on the horizon.

I'm still hoping and praying for a few more weeks of good weather but then we know the chilly nights and frosts will reappear, and that can  be a bit depressing. especially if, like me, you prefer the warmer days of the year.

But we know that autumn - or Fall - also brings the harvest and beautiful colours, like nature is having a last glorious celebration before the dark and colder days of winter.

I think the dawn of every new month is always exciting. It's a new chapter, a new page in our book of life! New opportunities! And the first of any month is a reminder that time passes quickly, and we need to grasp life, enjoy it and make the most of each moment that is given to us.

So here's a thought to inspire us, to make us smile and encourage us to make the most of this new month!

Have a great day everyone!

And have a FABULOUS September

 

First day of September

 


The Audacity of Hope

On Wednesday January 21st 2009,  I was in a hotel room in Christchurch, New Zealand, having set my alarm for an early wake up call so I could be witness to a truly historic moment.

I was enjoying the last couple of days of an amazing holiday which had taken me first to Australia and then on to the north, and finally the south island of New Zealand.

But although I had spent more than a month virtually cut off from the world, away from the news, enjoying some solo travel and relaxing, I was determined to be part of something which was happening in the USA.

So it was that, at 4am that morning, I turned on the TV to watch the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States of America.

Time-zone wise, Christchurch is 16 hours ahead of Washington DC - hence that early alarm because it was at 12noon in Washington DC on Tuesday January 20th that Barack Obama stood at the West Front of the United States Capitol building and took the presidential oath of office - the first ever African American president of the USA.

What an incredible moment in time and history!

I had followed the future president's journey to the White House over the previous year, read some of his books and was inspired. I think I was particularly intrigued because he has some roots in the country of Kenya, where I grew up. His father was from that country although of course, Barack was born in Hawaii in the USA. His book 'Dreams from My Father' is the first part of his amazing life story.

His second book 'The Audacity of Hope' picks up his story and actually the book explained and unpacked many of the subjects that became part of Barack Obama's 2008 campaign for the presidency.

HOPE became a central feature of the campaign and of the new presidency and that was truly inspirational.

Of course, President Obama would go on to serve another term and among other things later in 2009, he would be honoured wit the Nobel Prize for Peace. The motivation for the prize was President Obama's "...extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." This, the Nobel Committee determined, was at the core of inspiring hope for a better future, not just in and for the USA but also for the world. He encouraged dialogue, co-operation between peoples, democracy and human rights, and this was recognised by the Nobel prize, along with his work to combat climate change.

President Obama still inspires today. His story continues.

His latest biography - 'A Promised Land'  - focuses on the first couple of years of his time as president. I look forward to Volume 2 !

But back to the theme of Hope ... 

It's an intangible thing. We can't touch it but we CAN feel it! We can't see it but we can experience it. When things are going wrong or at least not as we expected, it's easy just to cave and give up believing that life CAN be better. It's easy to lose hope.

But no matter how uncertain life might be, let's not lose that hope that sustains us. Let's keep the dreams we have for our lives, for our families, for our futures, alive. 

And here's a reminder which might help us...

To mark the birthday of President Barack Obama, who was born on this day ... August 4th  ... in 1961, I share an inspiring thought from the man.  

Hope - a belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead!

Now THAT is audacious!

Hope - Barack Obama
What an inspirational thought!

Oh and an interesting footnote about Barack Obama ... if you've done your sums, you'll know that today is a significant birthday for the great man.

He was 47 when he was first elected as president, one of the youngest American presidents in history - the average age of the presidents is 55 and, as we know even from very recent elections, many of the incumbents of the White House are often much older!

Happy 60th birthday Mr President!!

 


Delicious Writing

Today I'm remembering one of my heroines.

She was a fantastic writer, an artist and illustrator, a farmer, natural scientist and conservationist! And just an AMAZING person, a woman before her time!

Her stories have given hours and hours of pleasure to generations of children in the last century, with her incredible creatures - Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Mr Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddle-Duck and so many more.

I'm talking, of course, about Beatrix Potter!

What a woman! 

Born on this day - July 28 - in 1866 she grew up in a strict middle-class Victorian home, educated by governesses and isolated from other children. Apart from her brother, young Beatrix's main companions were her numerous pets and early on she started painting pictures of them and making up stories. Beatrix and her family took holidays in Scotland and in the north west of England, in the Lake District, and as she grew she learned to love and closely observe landscape, flora and fauna. 

Beatrix studied and made watercolours especially of fungi, and she first became well respected in the field of mycology. the study of fungi. 

By all accounts she was not just an exceptional talent, but also frustrated at home, feeling trapped. She didn't care to do what other girls of her time were expected to do ... get married to the 'right' man and produce lots of offspring. She wanted more. She wanted a career, to do something useful with her life. She bucked the trends of her day.

By the time she was in her thirties, she turned to writing and illustrating stories for children.

Peter_Rabbit_first_edition_1902Her first book, 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit', started out as a story for a little boy she knew, five-year-old Noel Moore who was the son of one of Beatrix's former governesses, Annie Carter Moore. Beatrix drew pictures and made up the story in 1893 and in 1901 she revised it and offered it to some publishers. When it was rejected, she decided to print copies herself but a year later it was picked up by the publishing house Frederick Warne & Co.

With its central character a naughty and mischievous little rabbit who gets into, and is chased around, the garden of  Mr. McGregor, the book was almost immediately a huge success, capturing the imagination not just of children but of their parents. It's a simple story - Peter escapes and returns home to his mother, who puts him to bed with a cup of chamomile tea - but the exquisite pictures have helped to make it one of the best-selling books in history. In the years after its publication it was reprinted multiple times and in the century since it was published it's sold more than 45million copies and has been translated  into 36 languages.

After Peter's success, Beatrix began writing and illustrating children's books full time and she let her imagination run wild, writing many stories based around what have become iconic animal characters ... some of whom I mentioned before. She wrote 30 books, 23 of which were her children's tales.

She was also a canny businesswoman. As early as 1903, Beatrix made and patented a Peter Rabbit doll and this was followed by other merchandise - painting books, board games, wall-paper, figurines, and even baby blankets and china tea-sets. Warne and Co licensed these and they and Beatrix reaped the financial benefits.  She became a very rich woman, and within a few years of that first book she was able to move out of home and the restrictive influence of her parents in London.

In 1905 she had been unofficially engaged to her publisher, Norman Warne, much against her controlling parents wishes. Sadly Norman died unexpectedly a month later and Beatrix was then even more determined to move out of the family home. That same year, with the proceeds from the stories and merchandising, and a legacy from an aunt, she bought Hill Top Farm in the village of Near Sawrey in the Lake District in Cumbria, near Lake Windermere. 

And this is where her story takes an unexpected twist. Living in the Lake District, Beatrix became aware that much of this beautiful land was under threat of being bought up for housing development for the ever expanding population of the northwest of England. 

Over a period of decades, she gradually bought more farms, and so preserved the unique hill country. Her busy writing was eventually replaced by her passion for land and conservation and farming. She became a prize-winning breeder of native Herdwick sheep and she was  a prosperous farmer. When she died  in December 1943 at the age of 77 Beatrix left almost all her property to the National Trust and this legacy means she is credited with preserving much of the land that now makes up the Lake District National Park.

And she didn't live her life without love. Beatrix eventually DID marry - in 1913 aged 47, she married William Heelis, a respected local solicitor from the town of  Hawkshead.

Beatrix Potter was a force of nature. She refused to be constrained by the 'rules' and expectations of her day. She walked her own road and allowed her creativity to thrive. She was determined to follow her own path, even if that scandalised her parents and other 'respectable' folk. She made a fantastic success of her life, and her legacy lives on not just in all those amazing stories, but also in the beautiful Lake District National Park.

As a writer I'm inspired by Beatrix Potter and am a little envious, truth be told, of her imagination and her determination. I need more of that!

She once said that she never really 'grew up' and that was the basis of her story-telling. She also apparently said she was pleased she didn't go to school because that might have robbed her of her originality.

But this is my favourite quote from Beatrix Potter. She obviously LOVED writing ... she was excited by the prospect of putting pen to paper. Bringing her animal friends to life was a joy, but she allowed them to tell their own story.

I love that.

Some writers report that sometimes characters in their stories DO almost manifest themselves through the writing and that's happened to me once in a while.

To do that, I must simply allow my imagination to go wild, just as Beatrix did.

Thanks Miss Potter - may your stories always not just entertain but also inspire!!!

Beatrix Potter

 


What we Love ...

Most of us, even if we're not religious, may have heard of St Francis of Assisi.

You know who I'm talking about ... the 12/13th century Italian Catholic friar, mystic and preacher who is best known these days for being the Patron Saint of Animals because of his close association with nature and the natural environment and animals. 

In addition,  his 'Prayer of St Francis' ... Make Me a Channel of your Peace ...  is now widely known as a Christian prayer for peace.

It was on this day - July 16th - in 1228, just two years after his death, that Francis was canonized by Pope Gregory IX

But did you know that one of  the first followers of Francis was a young woman called Clare, who was actually born on this day in 1194?

Clare, like Francis, hailed from the town of Assisi in central Italy and was from a rich and ancient Roman family whose homes included a palace in Assisi. Clare would have been brought up in the Roman Catholic faith and apparently was very devout even as a child. Although undoubtedly she would have been destined for a rich marriage, instead when she was what we would now call a 'teenager', Clare decided on a religious life.

She apparently heard Francis speak at a church service during Lent, the period running up to Easter, and was inspired to give her life completely to God. She was just 17 but on the evening of Palm Sunday, 20 March 1212, she left her father's house and, accompanied by her aunt Bianca and another companion, went to the chapel of the Porziuncula in Assisi to meet Francis.

There, so history tells us, Clare's hair was cut, she removed her rich clothing and instead took on a plain robe and veil, indicating that she was turning her back on her previous life of luxury and was committing herself to a life of poverty and service to humanity.

Her father was furious. He tracked her down at a convent in San Paulo near Bastia where she had been placed in the care of Benedictine nuns ... but she refused to return home, and continued to profess that she would have no other 'husband' but Jesus Christ. She implored Francis to send her to an even more secluded religious community  - Sant' Angelo in Panzo - where she was soon joined by her sister Catarina, who changed her name to 'Agnes'. Both Clare and Agnes would eventually be canonized!

They remained with the Benedictines until a small dwelling was built for them next to the church of San Damiano near their hometown of Assisi.  Here Clare and Agnes gathered other religious women around them, they lived a life of poverty and seclusion from the world and they became known as the "Poor Ladies of San Damiano". Later, ten years after Clare's death in August 1253, it would become known as the Order of Saint Clare. These days the contemplative order of nuns is in 75 countries across the world but it began with just one woman and a vision from God.

While the Franciscan friars travelled around the country to preach, Saint Clare's 'sisters' existed in isolation from the world, where they lived a life of manual labour and prayer. They were barefoot, slept on the ground, ate no meat and observed almost complete silence. At one point the Pope of the day,  Gregory IX, offered Clare a 'dispensation' from the vow of strict poverty. She declined, and eventually the Pope instead granted them something called the 'Privilegium Pauperitatis' — a ruling that nobody could oblige the Clares to accept any possession. 

It's hard to imagine these days, when we're so wrapped up in belongings and 'stuff' and 'freewill', that a live of solitude and austerity could be appealing ...  but in fact Clare and her followers inspired many to join them, including more members of her own family.

Another sister, Beatrix, also joined the order and after their father's death, their mother Ortolana also entered the convent at San Damiano which followed the Franciscan monastic religious order. It was here that Clare would write their  Rule of Life, which are believed to be the first set of monastic guidelines known to have been written by a woman. 

Many words of wisdom have passed down the centuries from St Clare but I think one of my favourite thoughts from this wise Woman of God are those below.

It's such a profound thought, and could have been written for the 21st century. 

I invite you today to read these words, and reflect, as I am doing.

What is it that I 'love'? What is shaping me?

Is it 'things', possessions, power, status, money?

Is that what is shaping our lives?

Or is it just simply ... love? Compassion for others? And maybe God? 

It's a tough one ... and although it might not necessarily mean a life of seclusion and poverty, it might help us to think about what is important in our lives and what we hold dear!

 

St Clare of Assisi


Dance in the Rain!

The summer in Jersey so far has been a bit disappointing, to say the least.

We had some days of warmth and sunshine, but the past few weeks have, to be honest, been very 'un-summerlike'.

For someone who loves long weeks of beach, and swimming, and warm nights and enjoying the feel of the sun on her skin, this summer hasn't really come good.

Not yet, anyway.

Glass half full - it's still only early July and we could still enjoy weeks and months of lovely weather well into the autumn, if we're fortunate.

We can hope, anyway.

When I saw this quote on a big wooden canvas in a local charity shop recently (yes, I did take a picture of it - it was too large to bring home) it reminded me, however, that if I wait for the 'perfect conditions' in life, I risk missing out on so much!

If I wait for the sunshine to come out, so to speak, I might not experience wonderful things while the rain is falling.

And, of course, I'm not just talking about the weather.

So - metaphorically and literally speaking - maybe I need to start dancing in the rain!

 

Dance in the rain

 


A Walk in Queen's Valley

As part of my 'New Adventure' in life ... I've started trying to perfect the art of making little films.

I've worked in TV for a long time, I know how to point a camera and I can edit a little, but right now I'm testing various editing software and learning a bit more about how to put together a short video. I'm using my I-phone and a small video camera so I have several options.

I will not be making a full length film anytime soon, so all you Hollywood producers can breathe a sigh of relief. No, this is designed really for social media. At some point I'm planning to mix down film to music but right now it's a bit basic but such fun! As in my 'New Adventure' I'm not having to work full time, I am able to spend time filming and editing and trying new things out. What a joy to have that sort of liberty!

Queen's Valley path 2Recently I took a walk around the Queen's Valley reservoir in Jersey and grabbed some video on the camera. Below is a taster of what I captured that day!

As I walk around the stretch of water, I'm reminded of other walks in Queen's Valley. Back in the 1980s when I was a young reporter/journalist working locally, there was a great debate over whether the area - a beautiful natural valley full of trees and wildlife and a few old cottages and homesteads and farm land - should be flooded to create a much needed water resource for the island of Jersey.

There were protests, petitions and protest marches, but today we walk AROUND the reservoir ... so the campaigners didn't win that one.

Queen's Valley lower reservoir 4I remember the passion and controversy surrounding the development and the works and there are still memories of the old Queen's Valley around. If you've ever watched early episodes of the Jersey-based detective drama Bergerac, which was shown on British TV from 1981 to 1991, the main character's cottage was in that valley. And on my door I have a handmade pottery sign ('The Cottage') which was made in a small pottery once based in the valley.  

The reservoir is the newest and largest body of inland water and was completed in 1991. When full it contains enough water to supply our island for just shy of 50 days! The area actually houses two reservoirs, with the lower section being the largest.

Queen's Valley upper reservoirThis little stroll actually takes us up to the 'bridge' which splits the two sections. I'm walking along the upper section of the water up to that 'bridge'. I did carry on walking around the whole reservoir, but my camera ran out of juice at the intersection.

Every time I go up to Queen's Valley reservoir, I think of the valley which is lying beneath the water, and even the buildings down there!

But it's still a beautiful, and tranquil spot ... and a great walk!

SO why not come with me? There are a few little 'hills' (well actually they are just 'inclines') so take a breath now and then. 

And then .... BREATHE!

Have a happy day everyone!

PS - this little film is now on my YouTube Channel. I'm beginning to make a few more films now which I hope you'll enjoy! And please feel free to 'subscribe' if you want!

*images all taken by me on a lovely day


Summer Prayer

About this time of the year in the northern hemisphere of our planet, it's the longest day of the year.

Between about June 20 and 22nd there is more daylight than darkness, more days of sunshine hopefully because it's the moment when the path of the sun is farthest north. For those of us north of equator, it's the beginning of what is called 'astronomical summer'! Otherwise known as 'Summer Solstice'.

And this year the beginning of that season ... midsummer ... is today -  June 21 - when give or take the UK will enjoy around 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight, with the sun rising before 5am and setting around 9.30pm.

Summer Solstice (and actually Winter Solstice which here falls on or around December 21st) has always had cultural,  spiritual and even religious significance for humankind. Many cultures assign importance to the elements and the seasons and so this is a time for celebration, holidays, festivals and rituals. In many countries and regions this is associated with religion and even fertility as the Summer Solstice marks the time when crops are growing, nature is thriving and people are enjoying the goodness of life and are optimistic for the future. 

At places like Stonehenge - the circle of prehistoric Standing Stones on Salisbury Plain in the county of Wiltshire in England - ceremonies to mark the rising of the sun on this day have been held for thousands of years, as people recognised the religious significance of the mysticism of creation.

The Summer Solstice was and still is a marker for the year and the rolling out of the seasons. Neolithic humans may initially have started to observe the summer solstice as a way to figure out when to plant and harvest crops. We know that in Ancient Egypt, the summer solstice corresponded with the rise of the Nile River so it helped people to predict the annual flooding, and that was obviously related to the viability of their crops along the banks of the river, and the potential harvests later in the year. If you fancy reading more about this time of year there is loads online, including a great website hosted by the History Channel.

But the significance of days like today transcends nature. Before humans understood how the earth interacts with our sun and why the days of light and darkness differ according to the seasons, this period of long days of daylight would have been connected with mysticism and powerful messages about the universe. The word Solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (Sun) and sistere (to stand still) ... this day it would have felt as if the sun was motionless in the heavens and so it would have had some spiritual significance and traditions and behaviours developed around the day.

According to pagan folklore, evil spirits would appear on the Summer Solstice so in order to ward these off, people would wear protective garlands of herbs and flowers. Some midsummer traditions involve dancing around the 'maypole'. Bonfires were lit, also to help banish those demons and evil spirits. Ancient 'magic' was thought to be strongest at this time of year and those bonfires were also thought to lead girls to their future husbands - again linked to that sign of fertility. 

The Summer Solstice is often associated with the ancient religions which pre-date Christianity and were closely aligned to nature and the seasons. And regardless of whether we are people of 'faith' or not, the Summer Solstice is a time when we can appreciate the warmth of the sun and the potential in our world, and be inspired for the future.

I could have given you all kinds of quotes about Summer Solstice today ... there are masses online ... but I found this prayer which, as a person of faith, says it all for me.

Enjoy this long day everyone!

And if you're in the southern hemisphere ... be assured that as you are now halfway through your 'winter', summer is on its way!

Summer Prayer