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Opening the Doors…

The news has been harrowing. We learnt of the deaths of four members of the same family who died crossing the channel. How can this be allowed to happen? There must be another way. There are NO excuses. In the words of novelist and former refugee Dina Nayeri : ‘It is the obligation of every person born in a safer room to open the door when someone in danger knocks.’

Found Again

There is sunlight on the leaves 
And in distant fields, children play.
Voices carry on the wind,
Bringing a piercing reminder 
That life goes on,
Even when for some
The light has gone out,
And left nothing but broken hearts.
Will there ever be a tomorrow 
As normal again as yesterday?
Somehow, we have to believe
That, one day
Sorrow will fall away,
And in another place
All that is lost will be found again,
Love will find its way home to us,
And the world hereafter
Will be better
Than it ever was before.

L.M.H.

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Letting the Light In

Do you find it more difficult to feel motivated this time of the year, especially in the cold, sometimes grey light of morning? I think a lot of us do. Also there is that slightly gloomy feeling when we realise that we are going to be facing a period of short days and long nights. Next week in our part of the world we will be drawing the curtains at tea-time!

For most of our human existence, we have lived our lives according to the availability of sunlight. We would wake at sunrise and go to sleep when darkness fell. But now things are very different. A lot of our days are spent in artificially lit buildings and the structures of our days and routines are very different to those of our ancestors. We go about our days not noticing that we aren’t getting the quality of natural light we need, yet sometimes feel out of sorts – we can feel the negative effects without really knowing the reason why. It is thought we can be more prone to heart disease, sleep deprivation and depression when our circadian rhythm ( the daily cycle that controls sleep, hunger and alertness) is disrupted by lack of light.

We need natural light – it varies in colour, from bright blue during daylight hours, to soft, reddish glows in the evening. We get a message from these different lights and our bodies respond without thinking about it. We are used to many different shades of light – we aren’t really used to a switch on switch off setting! A glorious array of different lights and shade is what we tune in to best.

I am always tempted to turn on my lamps – I like cosy corners lit with favourite lampshades when the day is a little grey. However, I am learning to try and make the most of natural daylight when I can. The trick is to try and position desks by a window for example, and give ourselves the best exposure we can.

In the darker hours I use warm, coloured lighting with halogen bulbs, and position my table lamps around the corners of the room rather than use overhead spotlights. I have a Himalayan salt lamp too, which gives a wonderful, soft amber glow and is warm to the touch.

Whenever possible, it’s good to get outside during daytime hours and expose yourself to the light – if possible leave off the sunglasses but don’t stare directly at the sun (if it is making a rare appearance!). Sunlight, even in the smallest doses that winter allows, can help boost serotonin levels and boost our mood.

Why not take a short walk and even have your coffee outdoors – just put on a warm coat first!

But, if we are marooned indoors, we can still bring the outside in. By surrounding ourselves with lush green plants and natural materials we can feel infinitely calmer and peaceful. Just by looking at green leaves and natural shapes we can lift our mood. Tactile natural wooden objects can help us relax too. Open fires emit calming light, but if your home doesn’t have a fireplace, candlelight can give off an almost magical light and even the simple act of lighting a candle can de-stress us.

During the first lockdown in April, we were lucky to feel the benefit of getting outdoors; indeed, for many it was a salvation – we couldn’t go anywhere apart from taking short walks, but we could sit in the garden if we were fortunate enough to have one. We could wake up to the dawn chorus, and watch a beautiful sunrise. Somehow it made us feel more positive.

Now though, we can’t be sure what lies ahead, and the threat of further lockdowns hang over us. We won’t have the comfort of warm sunny days for a while, but perhaps we can embrace a bit of Hygge – the Danish expression which roughly translated means coziness , although it means a lot more than that. It ties in ideas of companionship, wholesomeness, and contentment, all wrapped up in one harmonious whole. The great thing is that Hygge is easy to embrace, even on a budget. Most of the things central to the Hygge lifestyle- such as candles, home-cooked meals, warm socks and hot drinks to name but a few, cost little or nothing. It is all about warmth, comfort and closeness – all the feelings you may normally get from a hug. We may not be able to have as many hugs as we like at the moment but we can focus on making our own personal space as welcoming and comforting as possible.

                                                     One kind word can WARM three months OF WINTER 

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Finding Things to Enjoy Right Now…(and what not to).

We may be finding ourselves sliding into worry again (if it ever really left) – for the world is insane, unfathomable, and the news almost offensively-familiar. Some people are back in lockdown and others wonder if and when it will be re-instated. We wait for the doors to shut and try not to think about all the repercussions once more. And this time we will not have the luxury of the long daylight hours, and the beautiful warm weather we enjoyed in the spring. We cannot help but think it will be a phase of quiet dullness with no novelty this time round – we have slightly tired of the ‘well this is making us appreciate reading/ catching up on box set viewing / home cooking’ etc. phrases. Second time round we really don’t want to think about the tiresome problem of finding somewhere that stocks plenty of loo rolls and has a good supply of marmite. We don’t want to plan our wardrobe so that we can look good from the waist up when taking a zoom call. We want to dress up properly and go out! We want to be able to choose a new winter coat and some snazzy boots that we might even be able to show off! For me, even the online yoga has palled a bit, as has the indoor walking. All these things have had their place, and indeed, still help keep us sane, but when we knew the restaurants were open again it didn’t take us long to drop the ‘woo woo’ stuff and leap off out. We don’t want half-hearted any more, we don’t want sorry attempts at being normal, yet at the moment that is what we have to accept.

But we are nothing if not resilient. We may fold our arms for a moment or two and grimace at the thought of what could lie ahead, but then our hard-core, steely reserve kicks in and we make the best of things. Again. That is what we do and what we are good at. And deep down, most of us do enjoy the small things.

So here are a few things that help me find some comfort now that a different kind of Autumn beckons …

The moon – Dust off those binoculars and get ready for the eleventh full moon of 2020. October’s moon was dubbed the Hunter’s Moon because preparations for winter began around this time. The next full moon doesn’t grace our skies until October 31st, but each night I have been moon gazing; the position of the now waning crescent moon is low in the sky and has taken on an extraordinary golden colour. One can only look and marvel at this loyal companion.

The colours – Oh the beautiful colours and traditions of autumn. From walks among the crunchy fallen leaves, to harvest festivals with the wonderful, abundant fruits and vegetables, the golden colours envelop us. The pumpkins in particular, grace our window ledges, stacked in all their golden glory, waiting to delight us with their spooky glow at Halloween. In October, the sun sinks low in the sky, the light mellows and takes on a rich amber hue so loved by photographers. Perhaps it is because my birthday falls in October but it is one of my favourite times of the year. The cosiness is there without the bone chilling cold of deep winter. And one can have an enormous bowl of porridge for breakfast with a drizzle of cream knowing it will bolster you up for the day….

Then there is the wildlife to beguile us. The pheasants, scampering and squawking through the ploughed fields and the geese who seem to fly over our rooftops most nights in their amazing v – shaped formation. The last few nights I have been lulled to sleep by owls hooting. Sometimes it sounds like just one, other times perhaps two, hooting back and forth in their night-time conversations . Looking in my bird book, I learn that great horned owls begin setting up territories in October. Apparently, they mate for life but begin their courtship about now. Perhaps I am lucky enough to have a pair of great horned owls living nearby! Some say the sound of an owl hooting foretells something untoward but I like to think it is something rather more romantic.

Hello Comfort.

Autumn lovers wave goodbye to those pesky tee shirts that show the worst bits of your arms and the skimpy sandals the cover your feet in blisters. We can welcome fleeces, UGGs and an abundance or warm, soft clothing. We can drink hot chocolate and eat home-made apple pie whilst wrapped up in a cozy throw on the sofa. Or how about some hot apple cider? If you have never had mulled cider before why not give it a try? Just pour a bottle of your favourite apple cider into a pan, with 3 cloves, I cinnamon stick and a sliced orange. Gently heat for ten minutes so that it infuses, cool slightly, then pour into glasses. Tastes delicious and so reminiscent of the days when we could meander round Christmas markets.

I guess we all want a bit of decadence in our lives; to relive the joy of dancing, and have a bit of a knees up from time to time. We can’t have that just now but we can dream of good times that will come again. Perhaps until then we can adopt a sort of sanguine resignation to the latest restrictions, look after ourselves and our mental health, and toast ourselves with a glass of cider.