nature

Climbing our Mountains

Have you ever climbed a mountain?

I'm actually talking about a real 'mountain' now, although I'll get on to the metaphorical in just a moment.

I know quite a few people who have climbed summits. I even know some very brave souls who have scaled the highest mountain in the world - Mount Everest in the Himalayas!

In my youth it was something I fancied doing ... well maybe not Everest but certainly smaller mountains ...

However, a medical condition I had in my childhood meant that I don't do well at very high altitude so that was not an option for me. I have been skiing in the mountains but I have always lost a few days of my holiday to severe altitude sickness, so I haven't swished down the slopes for quite a few years now. Truth be told, my knees probably couldn't take the strain now anyway.

I still love the idea of going to the Himalayas and the Andes but I guess I'll just need to do that in my imagination.

Back to why I'm talking about this today.

Well, it was on this day in the year 1919 that a child was born in New Zealand who would go on to become the first of two people to reach the top of Mount Everest.

Edmund Hillary (later to become Sir Edmund) was an explorer, mountaineer, diplomat and philanthropist and it was on May 29th 1953 that he and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest - or at least to confirm they reached the top of the mountain.

It was just one of many achievements but, by all accounts, it didn't make Hillary big headed or arrogant. Although his climb made him an international sensation, and of course led to the opening of the mountain for the generations to come, following his ascent of Everest,  among other things Hillary devoted himself to assisting the Sherpa people of Nepal through the Himalayan Trust, which he established, and which built many schools and hospitals. 

To climb a mountain, let alone the highest mountain in the world, takes great bravery, and in 1953 it took exceptional courage. There wasn't the sophisticated equipment including  breathing apparatus which exists today, so the peril was severe. Hillary and Tenzing Norgay weren't the first to try to conquer Everest, many many people had attempted it before and failed and even died in the trying. People have died since ... I remember one former teacher who I learned some years after I left school in the 1970s had perished while attempting Everest.

And, of course, many have successfully now followed in Hillary and Norgay's footsteps.

Everest wasn't the only peak in the Himalayas (and other ranges) that Sir Edmund would climb in his lifetime and he knew that it wasn't just about physical bravery but also mental strength.

After climbing Everest Sir Edmund is said to have said this ... 

'It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves!'

Stand by for the metaphors ... because of course we all have 'mountains' to climb in our lives. They might not be actual mountains but they feel like that sometimes. Insurmountable conditions under which we are living, difficult people, constrained finances, ill health... you get the idea. Fill in the gaps for yourself.

Before we face these problems in life, maybe we need to consider and perhaps attempt to overcome some of our own issues? Those things which maybe are holding us back from going for our dreams and for the things we know will improve our lives. We need, perhaps, to find ways to ensure we are strong, so we can face what might come and ensure we have the mental, physical and spiritual 'equipment' to cope with it all! I'm not only talking about 'mind over matter', it's more complicated than that. But maybe we need to draw on our inner values and strength to face difficulties and move forward.

It may be hard, but worth trying., if we are to reach our goals in life!

So, whatever your 'mountain' is - hope this encourages you today!

 

Sir Edmund Hillary


Happiness

I've had a great week.

I've scaled back a little on the workload, caught up with friends who I haven't seen for yonks, and because the sun came out here in Jersey, I've managed to get in a few visits to the beach and to SWIM!! 

I'm blessed to live in this lovely island where there's lots of opportunities to get out into nature. For me, swimming in the sea is so great, not just because of the exercise, but because for a while when I'm in the water I can forget the worries of the world and the demands on my time and just BE.

In fact, at one point this week when I was just enjoying BEING in the ocean, I tried to practise a bit of 'mindfulness' ... just concentrating on the sounds around me - the waves, the water, the seagulls, the distant sound of laughing children, the sound of a motorboat - and feeling the sun on my cheeks, and the occasion wave smacking me in the face!

I do find detaching myself from day to day worries sometimes difficult but I'm working on it.

And this thought helps me today.

Because I know when I dwell on my problems, they appear larger and more difficult to overcome.

Whereas, in reality, they are not insurmountable!

 

Happiness and Gratitude


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


A blessing

So, we've reached another Sunday.

And today I just want to share an ancient blessing with you which I found online.

It comes from the Apache Native American spirituality, culture and tradition.

I love it for it's seeming simplicity, but also for the depth of its meaning.

Read it a few times over and over, and you'll see what I mean.

It inspired me and I hope it does the same for you!

Enjoy your day everyone!

 

Apache blessing


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!

 

 


May God give you .....

This past week I was having a conversation with a friend and in usual fashion, we chatted about anything and everything. Work, frustrations, our health (physical and mental health) ... and along the way the subject of Celtic Christianity came up.

Rather random, I grant you, but it's once again made me think about the ancient faith of many of our British forefathers and mothers, a spiritual tradition and theology which is connected not just to God but also to the earth and nature, the elements and the natural environment around us. 

I love this tradition and the sentiments and prayers which come out of it. These days you might often see these defined and described as 'Irish' blessings and prayers, but many of these come if not directly, then indirectly from the Celtic tradition. The fact that many of these blessings are based on very old spiritual traditions inspires me as I realise these prayers have been spoken silently and out loud for many hundreds of years by the faithful. They have brought inspiration and comfort, challenge and affirmation in equal measure.

I don't know anything about you, dear reader, or how you are feeling right now. But what I've learned down the years is that God sometimes gives us a thought which, without knowing it, will help someone else if passed on.

So today I bring you one of those blessings and trust it will bring you whatever YOU need.

Be Blessed Today!

 

Sunday blessing


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.