environment

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

 

 

 

 


Ouaisné Waves

It feels like summer is here in Jersey - at last.

The sun has managed to stay out for a while, temperatures are rising, the sea is gradually warming up a little and I've been swimming a few times already and loving it!

Ouaisne Jersey June 2021
Recently I headed down to the beach at Ouaisné Bay on the west coast - at the far end of the popular St Brelade's Bay - for a late afternoon 'dip'. It was glorious!! A little bit chilly for a moment or two but once I was in, so relaxing. 

Being near the sea and listening to the sounds of the ocean, as well as immersing myself in the water, is really helpful to my mental health and wellbeing.

I'm still perfecting my movie making so please bear with me ... but after my swim I recorded some of the sounds of the waves, the wind and the distant sounds of people including those enjoying the ocean, playing in the sand nearby. 

What a wonderful world we live in! 

Have a great day everyone!

 

 


A Little Respect

Today I'm thinking about a word ...

R E S P E C T 

And yes, if you know your music you'll know it's also the title of a song by the wonderful American R&B and soul singer Aretha Franklin.

In fact it was on this day - June 3rd in 1967 - that 'Respect' reached Number 1 in the Billboard Pop Singles charts. 

 

Respect aretha franklin"Respect" was originally written and released by the American singer-songwriter Otis Redding in 1965 but as I said before, it was two years later that it was a hit for Aretha Franklin.

I'm intrigued that in each version the stories are slightly different. Redding speaks from a man's perspective, obviously, who will give the woman in his life everything she wants, so long as he gets his due respect when he brings home the money.

In Aretha Franklin's take on the theme, she is shouting from the rooftops that she's a confident and strong woman who demands the 'respect' of the man in her life, including physical attention.

Aretha's 'Respect' was released at a time when the feminist movement was in the ascendant, and her song became an anthem for the feminist movement.

It's considered to be one of the best songs of the R&B era, and it earned her two Grammy Awards in 1968 for "Best Rhythm & Blues Recording" and "Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance, Female". The song was even inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1987.

In 2002, Aretha's version of the song received more honour when the Library of Congress added it to the National Recording Registry. In addition, it was placed at number five on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". And it was also included in the list of "Songs of the Century", by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Wow! What a song!

But it's also a challenging word, that word 'Respect'. 

Taking aside the interpretation in the song, I think it's a very important word.

'Respect' can mean different things. It can mean deep appreciation and admiration of someone else or something else.  I think we can all understand that. There are things we 'respect' because we recognise their value to us and the world.

But 'respect' can also be defined as having meaningful regard for the wishes, rights and feelings of other people. Being thoughtful, considerate, polite, civil, attentive, courteous.

Some people might say that 'respect' is something that could do with being revived in our modern day culture and I think I might agree with that.

When I see people being vile on social media, I understand that they don't have a concept of 'respecting' others, and other people's opinions. They think THEIR opinions are more important and the feelings and rights of others are irrelevant, or even to be mocked and 'disrespected'. People don't respect or consider that others might think differently, believe different things.

When I read about people vandalising property for no particular reason than just to make a mess and disrupt the lives of others, I think that if they 'respected' other people's space and belongings and lives, they would not be inclined to behave in such a manner.

When I see the way people leave litter about, and 'fly tip' all their rubbish and pollute the oceans and the natural environment with plastics and other trash, it's a sign that they don't 'respect' our environment. They're not considerate of the world around them and how their actions impact not just on others, but on the natural world. And that's sad.

So today I'm thinking about how we can create more 'respect'. Of course there's that's old adage that we need to 'earn respect' and that's important. But we also need to 'learn' respect ... we need sometimes to put our own needs and wishes and wants aside and consider others. We need to stop thinking that WE are the centre of the universe and that no one else matters and learn that other people are worthy of respect. And even if we don't agree with them, we need to understand they have a right to their opinions and lifestyles. If we disagree with someone, we need to do that with 'respect'.

It's hard. But I think if we all have a bit more respect for others, and for our environment, the world would be a much better place.

 


Grow your Own

I've been writing this daily blog 'One Day at a Time' now since January 1st and if you've been following me you'll know I set out on this journey really just to encourage me to write more.

I am a writer, that's how I define myself I think, but with full time work I have to admit sometimes I have struggled to get writing properly every day, so committing to a blog was one way of ensuring that I get thinking and put pen to paper, or at least fingers to keyboard.

Sometimes I wake up with an idea of what I want to say, other times I'm out of ideas which is when those 'On This Day' websites have been useful. As a result I've found out so much about so many different people who were born/died on a certain day, or events that happened on a particular day in history.

And then there are those 'landmark' days and weeks and months across the world which have been set aside to mark a particular initiative or campaign. You know the sort of thing I'm talking about ... World Health DayInternational Mother Language Day (I featured that on February 21st), Mental Health Awareness Week, which was last week in the UK - May 10th to 16th - and so on and so on.

Actually you don't have to go far on your internet travels to discover that most days and weeks of the year have been given a designation or are associated with a campaign somewhere in the world.  And some dates are more popular, and obscure than others.

Take, for instance, today - May 20th.

Did you know that in some parts of the world today is World Bee Day? A few years back, the United Nations designated May 20th as World Bee Day to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development. An important day, even if like me you don't actually like bees. I was stung rather badly several times when I was a child and I have to admit I do have a bit of a phobia when it comes to things that buzz.

So today I'm turning to a subject I'm more comfortable with - Strawberries!

Strawberries 1Because today is also - National Pick Strawberries Day

Yes, it's a new one to me too and to be honest I think it's only in the USA. National Strawberry Day is actually February 27 ... yes I know it's very confusing ... but in my opinion we don't do enough celebrating of soft fruits! 

Don't worry, I'm not going to wax lyrical about the little fruit. Just to say, I love them!

In the past I've even grown them but since returning to Jersey some years ago I haven't done that. And I've missed it.

I've missed watching the little fruits appear and ripen on the plants in my terracotta 'strawberry planter' - it's a pot with holes on the side where you can plant lots of strawberry plants which hopefully gives you lots of produce.

This year I found my strawberry planter and I have put in a few plants. And I'm delighted to say the fruits of my labour are already appearing.

So a few days ago I made a little video and I put it on my YouTube channel. Which is also a work in progress.

 

OK - so it's not Hollywood - but who cares?

I'm not sure I'll be able to PICK my strawberries today, but in a week or so I might have one or two fruits to enjoy. And there's something about growing your own which is empowering.

The strawberry planter is just on my doorstep so I'm watching the little plants grow. 

And although, with just six plants,  I'll probably only manage to harvest a bowlful of strawberries, I'm going to enjoy every single delicious morsel.

 

 

 

 


Brighter Colours

It's the start of a new month.

Can you believe it?

For us here in the northern hemisphere, we're moving into the summer season and here in Jersey in the Channel Islands the weather is warming up.

I'm one of those people who loves the warm weather. It might come from my spending a lot of my childhood and teenage years living in Africa, but I just think it's because ... well I love the warm weather!

I love the feel of the sun on my skin, I love swimming in the sea and summer IS the best time for that. I love that I feel lighter in my head and my heart when there's less darkness and the days are longer.

The colours seem brighter - the new leaves on the trees are greener, the colours of the flowers in parks, gardens and in the hedgerows appear more vibrant, the sky bluer! It's at this time that I feel especially blessed to live in a lovely island like Jersey.

So today, as we enter the month of May, I'm just going to share a photograph I took a week ago, in the Parade Gardens in St Helier, just a short walk from where I live.

Have a lovely Saturday everyone!

Spring flowers 1

 

 


Celebrating Earth Day

Today is Earth Day.

Every year since 1970 this has been annual event designed for us all to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It's grown over the decades and lots of important environmental events have happened on Earth Day.

This year on Earth Day, today, there will be a Global Climate Summit, convened by the US President Joe Biden and held virtually I'm guessing because of coronavirus. Among other things it is designed to be a 'critical stepping stone for the U.S. to re-join the world in combating the climate crisis', having agreed to re-sign the Paris Agreement.  It's just one of the events being planned today and just one example of how Earth Day continues to be a momentous and unifying day every year.  These days it's reckoned that 1 billion people in more than 193 countries will mark Earth Day in some way.

And so to MY contribution.

A couple of years ago, I recorded a series for BBC Radio Jersey with the Jersey artist and iconographer Karen Blampied.

She has created something called The Earthday Icon ... inspired by the ancient nature embedded in the Eastern Orthodox Church Calendar, which each September celebrates Creation and which has a three year cycle, ending every year with the feast of St Francis of Assisi and the Blessing of the Animals. During this liturgical time of Creation, each Sunday is dedicated to a specific aspect of creation and the Earthday icons depicts forests, land, wilderness, rivers, skies, mountains, the universe, animals, storms, oceans and more, all with spiritual significance.

Karen's inspiration is to 'highlight the need of all people to be stewards of the Earth' and this really inspires ME.

I loved working with Karen on this series and the audio we produced is still on the BBC Radio Jersey website.

So today, to mark Earth Day, I'm including the links to the programme features.

You will have to click on each link to listen ... hope you don't mind doing that. But it's really interesting!

Enjoy! And be inspired and blessed!


Earthday icon KBlampiedEarthday Icon #1 - Ocean - Karen chats to me about the role of the sea in the Creation story

Earthday Icon #2 - Flora & Fauna - Karen in conversation with me about her icon

Earthday Icon #3 Storm - Karen chats to me about depicting weather & climate in her icon

Earthday Icon #4 Cosmos - Karen talks to me about depicting God and the heavens in her icon

Earthday Icon #5 Blessing of the Animals - Discovering Karen's inspiration for the animals in her icon

 

*Earthday icon image copyright - Karen Blampied


Laughing Out Loud

Have you ever had one of those moments when life feels so great that you just want to smile, and laugh out loud?

I had one of those moments last week when walking on St Catherine's Breakwater in Jersey. After a stressful few weeks it felt great to just be in the fresh air and walking. I could see the French coastline in the distance ... it was Glorious! 

I've always loved St Catherine's, not just because it's also my name, but because when you walk the breakwater, it feels like you're stepping into the ocean. The breakwater is about half a mile (700metres) long so a stroll to the end and back is about a mile and it's an easy walk. Even if it's busy you feel like you're getting away from it all and it always fills me with joy, whatever the weather.

The other day spring was in the air, the sea was calm in the bay, the sun was shining and there was a bit of of breeze on the coast. As I walked to the end of the breakwater, it felt a little more windy, but I was bundled up against the chill and it was exhilarating. When I reached the end of the breakwater, looking out to sea across to the French coast, I breathed in the clean air and my heart began to soar. I found myself laughing out loud.

Now, I don't often film myself, let alone when I doing something like smiling and laughing, but I did switch on the phone-camera the other day. It's nearly a month ago that I finished work with the BBC and started a New Adventure as a freelance writer/broadcaster/PR and communications expert, and lots of my friends and family members have been so kind to check on me from time to time, to see how I'm doing. So I sort of wanted to show them not just the beauty of St Catherine's, share some sounds of the ocean, which I find so relaxing, but also that I'm doing ok in my New Adventure!

There's a quote which sums up the benefits of laughter for me and which is attributed to the English poet, satirist and politician Lord Byron, who died on this day in 1824. I'm not going to talk much about him today ... I may do that another time ... just to say he was a bit of a character, to say the least. I remember studying his poetry at school as part of our exploration of the Romantic poets of the late 18th/early 19th century, and learning about some of his physical and romantic antics! 

And from what I discovered he was a bit of a 'lad' and certainly enjoyed life.

So I can imagine him saying something like this ...

Byron laughter
There's loads of science which indicates that smiling and laughing is good not just for our physical but also our mental health. So today I hope YOU find something which makes you Laugh Out Loud!

And if you want to smile with me ... here's my moment at St Catherine's ...

Have a great day everyone!