Hold Fast To All That is Good

I seem to have been writing so often lately about heartbreak and sadness  – so much has happened in our country to render us bereft and fearful. Our hearts are troubled as more and more tragic, dreadful and appalling occurrences unfold in front of our eyes as we view our television screens. How much can some people take we ask ourselves; what can we do to help others and also keep ourselves safe? We become full of doubt; how can this happen? Why is our country and its people suffering in such awful ways? How can a rich borough of London be home to such a terrible fire , possibly caused through blatant neglect of public safety? There may be some who in their hearts know the answers, but for most of us we have to carry on somehow, and meanwhile the books of condolences are filled with words from grieving hearts, and the flowers continue to be laid all around the sites of the latest disaster.

The heat in the country this week has not really been welcomed – its as though nature is contriving to add to our discomfort; we have trouble even resting at night. We do not wake refreshed and we find it hard to concentrate on our daily routine. I got to thinking that any extreme is hard to cope with. We search for equilibrium and balance in all things – at least I do. It’s easier to cope with life when we can jog along at a steady pace, walk around without feeling fearful of what lurks around the corner, and know that everything is in order. But of course, nothing stays like that for long, and when things go badly wrong we have to dig deep to find strength to cope. It is at times like these that the smallest things seem to help us – getting out into the garden, walking in the woods, hugging the grandchildren and reading them a funny story. We can share a coffee with friends, help our neighbour, offer someone a word or two of kindness. Just going through the motions of routine tasks can get us through the days that are difficult.

 As always in times of dreadful disaster, we see the kindness of strangers shine through. People pull together and are incredibly brave and courageous. They give. They give money they don’t really have; they give people comfort,  both materially and physically; they give love and show compassion. That’s when we realise how much goodness there is in this time of utmost suffering.

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We often find that the widest our experience is, the deeper our tolerance. Wisdom comes from all the ups and downs we have gone through in our lives and how we have dealt with them. And with wisdom comes a knowing. Knowing not to give advice unless asked for it; not making assunptions and forming opinions, not making judgements. It’s knowing we don’t always get things right and being ready to hold our hands up and admit it when we get things wrong. Mainly wisdom gives us courage. Courage to reach out when we see someone in need even if we have to step out of our comfort zone to help them. Courage to face our own demons.  Courage to step out and keep going in this scary world. Courage to stand up for what we believe in a peaceful, honest and informed manner.

One of my sons once said to me that it is what we do when no one is looking that counts and I have found this to be so true in life. If we can go forth with a light heart we can find it easier to cope with that which life throws at us.

In these times of darkness we pray for all those who’s hearts are breaking. We pray they will find some peace and will be wrapped in the love and comfort of open and loving arms.

Most of all we remember that when we all look to the future with love in our hearts, and unite in peace, we will be lifted up together.

Blessings to you.

More Then One Way to Look at Things…

I read an interesting piece about choice today – how we choose to act and react. What do we do when things don’t go how we want them too? And how do we react when we feel things go our way?   Yesterday we woke up to the news that the  general election here in Britain had resulted in a hung parliament – not the news a lot of us wanted whichever way we voted. The day’s news programs were focused very much on the reactions of all the politicians, their demeanours and their varying attitudes. Depending on which party they represented, and how their own particular region had fared, there were mixtures of sadness and dismay, excitement and victory, tempered with grim resignation and ill concealed gloating. Then came the time to find someone or something to blame/praise for the way the voting went. Calls went out for resignations. Bitterness ensued. There was either defeat or victory but not much in the way of genuine selflessness in between.

I got to thinking about how we feel when we disagree with how our own particular country is run and the difference between anarchy and democracy. The normal definition of anarchy is to do with the condition of society, an entity, group of people, or a single person that rejects hierarchy. In practical terms, anarchy can refer to the curtailment or abolition of government. It can also designate a nation that has no real system. In other words we think of a country with no structure and a country that dissolves into chaos. We imagine riots and turmoil. All things most of us would fear. But if you think about the definition of democracy we think of the belief in freedom and equality between people, or a system of government based on this belief; elected by the choice of the people. The whole population. The power of the country vested in the people.

But is this really the case?  Is there a different way of viewing anarchy versus democracy? Perhaps it is easy to assume we have choice because we know we live under a democratic government , but actually do we really have choice? We still have to follow rules, we are still helpless at times and cannot always live in the way we would really choose. We have to live with certain constraints and can’t always follow the paths we would wish to. We have to ‘toe the line’ while we see others exhibiting signs of greed and power which we cannot challenge. How can this be when we have personally been part of the  electoral system and are supposed to have a say in how things are done? Perhaps with a bit more knowledge and courage we could hold more people accountable for their actions when they try and control our banks or our hospitals for example. Perhaps we can think of a new kind of anarchy – a compassionate anarchy. This may require human beings to be willing to be authentic; be independent and dare to rebel in a positive way that helps society question things that cause unrest, and live in a healthier way without hurting others. With a more unstructured but more equal society we would have to work hard to make things work and remain harmonious. Could it be done? A lot of us are used to being in our comfort zones. We sense things are not great but are nervous of trying to create change. We think we are lucky in the main to live the way we live now and this is true.

But there is not really any ‘right’ way. If we live our lives with purpose and follow what we feel is right,  do what we really want to do to make our own lives better, make the best of what we have, and be grateful, then we may achieve some balance. Whenever people act with integrity and for the common good, are kind and compassionate and want the best for everyone and not just for themselves and their own immediate world, then we have, automatically, not anarchy, not democracy, but the best conditions for fair and honest living.

Blessings to you.

 

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Flags of Peace.

When dreadful things happen in our world we feel at a loss to know what to do. Maybe we feel rage and question how any higher being could let such atrocities happen. I like to think of the explanation a close friend gives when he says it is not until we move on from this world to the next that we will know real peace and all our questions will be answered. He likens it to the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle finally fitting together and forming the picture we have waited for all along. All we can do today is pray for all the broken hearts.

I wish that I had special powers

And could turn everything around

So we could change the way we look at things,

And keep our feet upon the ground.

To ask the floating clouds above

To spill the gentle rain,

To water the dry and barren land

And make it green again.

And could I harness the force of the wind,

Calm the raging sea,

Reign over nature’s wayward mind,

And let it quietly be?

For every child in every land,

There would be food enough to eat,

Arms stretched out to hold them tight,

And shelter from the heat.

And what if I could ask the world

To find the path to peace,

With every country’s flags unfurled

As all the wars have ceased?

But if I cannot change the world,

I can bend when the storm appears,

Do great things in smaller ways,

Dry another’s tears.

For I alone cannot decide

The way the world should be,

And I cannot begin to know

What there is still to see.

Lyn Halvorsen (c)

Blessings to you.

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Well this is nice….

This week at Dove Lane has seen me questioning a few things. I’ve been working quite prolifically lately – writing is my passion and I’m more than happy when I have some time to sit at my desk and write for my various projects. I’m lucky to be able to do what I love.  But there’s the thing. Sometimes writing takes us to different places than we are used to; different spheres and different continents even. Sometimes it takes us right out of our comfort zone. I like to write from the heart and I shy away from stuff that’s too controversial, or too, as my father would say ‘near the mark’. I try to write about things that have a ‘feel good’ factor, or throw a light on a subject that may reflect someone getting a bad deal in my view. This doesn’t mean I don’t reflect on the bad news that unfolds everyday in front of our eyes in the media. I do. But I think there is enough out there already to fill a thousand other features if you want to read them. I don’t shy away from listening to heart rendering news and sometimes it does colour my writing and maybe even my judgement, but when I write here I try to help you keep a step away from the hustle of everyday life, if even just for the few minutes you may take out of your day to read my blog. (A big thank you for that🙂)

But this week someone mentioned that my writing was a bit too ‘nice’.  Maybe a bit like a pleasant conversation. Hmm. That was a bit thought provoking. And in the context of what the person was referring to, they were right. Sometimes I need to toughen up my writing skills and dig deeper. There is a lot more waiting. The pool of new ideas is unfathomably deep. And I know my soul hears echoes from deep and dark places that sometimes have to be explored.

But I was taken right back to my school days when reflecting on my ‘nice’ description. One didn’t dare use the word nice in an essay or the said essay would not have had the chance of being marked with a coveted A+. We were told never to use the word nice; there was always a better word to use. I feel guilty to this day if I use nice as an adjective, even verbally.

However. Look up nice in the dictionary and this is what you read : Nice – pleasant, likeable, agreeable, personable, charming, delightful, amiable, affable, friendly, kindly, genial, good-natured, engaging, gracious, sympathetic, understanding, compassionate, good …I could go on. Quite, er, nice really.

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Who could not be happy with those descriptions, certainly if one is viewed in that way it is more than pleasing. There are times when writing I will need to ‘get real’ and assert myself; dig deep when I need to.  But there is a lot of nasty stuff out there and sometimes we need to escape a bit. So I will still be happy to write about ‘nice’ stuff, at least here. I will be light, be fluffy and scatter hearts and flowers. I will ‘nice’ the life out of my musings at times. I will still write my blog with compassion and be peaceful.

I will still feature the sayings that help make the world go round.

One I liked today…..

‘Do not forget small kindnesses and do not remember small faults.’

                      Chinese Proverb.

In the future I will not chastise myself when I use the ‘nice’ word – I won’t even mind if I’m deemed to be a bit lightweight and bit cheesy. I really could think of worse things. I might get a bit bolshy though.

Blessings to you.

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A Short Story for May

This is the time of year my imagination runs wild – I love the way the countryside looks and the circle of trees I pass quite often…..

The Circle of Trees

Mary was looking forward to the day ahead. Through the kitchen window at Honey Banks House she could see grey clouds scudding across the sky, threatening rain, but refused to let this dampen her spirits. She looked out across the garden to the field beyond where the beech trees stood; she could almost hear their leafy umbrellas rustling in the breeze, and felt the pull of the outdoors.

She looked at her watch; there was time to have a quick walk before starting work.  Shrugging on her battered old raincoat and her well worn boots she headed out of the back door. She clicked open the gate at the bottom of the garden and walked into the field beyond. It was a cold day for May, but who could fail to be cheered by the sight of the cow parsley filling the whole field almost as far as the eye could see; a frothy ocean of lacy white flowers, interrupted only by the trampled grassy pathway.

She liked to think the beech trees at the far end held a secret; there were seven of them forming a circle, and she liked to imagine fairies sneaking out at night and dancing under the shelter of their handsome branches. She was getting older but she could still believe in such things couldn’t she? They were purple now, but in the autumn, the leaves turned from purple to a showy copper, giving them a majestic air that somehow eased the way gently into winter.

Mary had read somewhere that if you hugged a tree it would benefit your health. She wasn’t sure if she believed that or not but she was drawn to the trees and always felt comfortable in their presence and liked the feel of their smooth, silvery grey bark. She liked the way their lower branches almost reached the ground, sweeping the woodland floor in her wake.

As she had so many times, Mary wondered about the history of “her trees” as she called them. Had their seeds randomly arrived, haphazardly blown there by the wind? Had they been lovingly planted by an unknown person long ago in the hope of establishing a beautiful vision on the landscape for the likes of her? Who could tell?

Mary looked at her watch and raced back to the house. She looked at her pen and paper set out on the table. She should be writing. She had an article to write and a deadline to meet in her job as a journalist, but somehow she felt restless and couldn’t settle. Inspiration just wasn’t coming. She walked from room to room, straightened cushions and folded laundry. She brewed some coffee and listened to the radio. She rumbled over plans for the weekend and made some phone calls. Then she decided to pull down the loft ladder and climb up with some boxes that needed storing away.

With the loft ladder safely locked in place, she climbed up to the attic space. Mary rarely came up here now, but it was oddly comforting to be up in the dusty space among old mementos.

Under the eaves she had stored some old suitcases years ago.  Opening one, she smiled as she found the old dressing up clothes the children used to love playing with, including an old lurex evening gown which had been, or so Mary had thought at the time,  the height of sophistication in the 70’s. Mary spent some time poking around the various storage chests; there were boxes full of keepsakes and the familiar and well loved Christmas decorations that were faithfully taken downstairs every year. Looking up she noticed a small box she had never noticed before, pushed between the beams.  Pulling at it and enveloped in a cloud of dust, she opened the box.

Inside she found a beautifully bound leather journal. Aware that it had laid there undisturbed for many years she wanted to give the book her undivided attention so she set it to one side for later.

The hours ticked by and Mary tried to concentrate on her work. Outside, the sun was setting and filtered through the trees. She sighed and put down her pen. It was no good, work would have to wait until tomorrow. She went back to the field and sat in the protective shelter of the trees, the branches meeting together over her head like a wondrous leafy roof.  The peaceful feeling here was overwhelming and Mary knew moments like this were never wasted, whatever demands life held. She lay back until her head rested on the grass and looked up as the last remnants of light filtered through the leaves.

Later, after clattering around in the kitchen, preparing supper and sipping a glass of wine, Mary’s thoughts returned to the journal in the attic. She went back up to retrieve it then settled down in her favourite armchair to look at it.

Inside the front cover she read the inscription:

The Journal

of

Lucy Ellen Smith aged 14

Honey Banks House

Devon. 1917.

Mary was astounded at what she had found. Over a hundred years had passed since this young girl had written her journal in this very house. She turned the pages with care. Each page contained accounts of the wildlife in the garden; the plants that were growing and the weather for each day. Some pages had simple but charming pencil sketches of flowers or birds that brought the journal alive.

Mary read the journal to the very last page and then her heart almost stopped. The date was May 9th 1917, a hundred years ago to the very day.

“Today we are going to stay with my grandparents far away from here. We do not know when our Father will return from the war and it is hard for Mother to cope alone. I have been down to the field beyond our garden and sat under the circle of beech trees. The buds have turned to purple leaves. Oh how I will miss seeing them turn to their beautiful shade of burnished copper as the autumn approaches. How will I celebrate Christmas, if at all? I feel homesick already and wonder if I will ever return. But I will think of “my trees” standing firm in a time of adversity, their branches bending but never breaking in the storm. Perhaps one day, someone else will shelter under the very same branches. That thought makes me happy.”

The house was silent, almost lending an air of quiet reverence. Mary closed the journal and looked out of the window and down to the field. The trees stood resolute and firm in the moonlight. She knew what she would write about tomorrow.

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One of the beautiful copper beech trees

Let’s go Ouside – Is Too Much ‘Viewing’ Damaging Our Health?

There has been concern about possible harm being caused to our eyes from staring at various screens for too long. Television screens, smart phones, tablets, computer screens, all play a huge part in our everyday lives. I often worry for our children and grandchildren who could be more affected than the older generation; they spend a lot of time using the available technology, both at school and at home. Tablets are a great asset  to learning and in many ways invaluable, so how can we monitor their use? There have been worrying headlines in the media stating that visual problems are on the increase. It has been claimed that more children are becoming short-sighted now than ever before, and there has also been a rise in hearing problems due to overuse of headphones.

Many of us, myself included, spend more than a few hours a day sitting down staring at a computer screen; often it is the main feature of our working day.

 Could we all really be damaging our health? What are the implications here as super technology isn’t going to go away? Indeed, the modern world couldn’t manage without it. It remains to be seen what new and amazing developments could be on the horizon, but how will these new developments affect our long term health? Of course, advancements in the field of medicine could help us tremendously so there are many positives as well as concerns.

I listened to the advice of an optometrist on the question of the increase in shortsightedness. The interesting, and encouraging news was this: yes there is a small increase in visual changes but this is not due to too much time staring at screens as we may have assumed – it is due to spending too much time indoors. Often children are not spending as much time outside in natural daylight as previous generations did. They are missing out on the amounts of natural light needed for eye health.  I think this is actually good news! We have a remedy. Fresh air and exercise! We can’t stop our children using their screens and games but we can encourage plentiful amounts of outdoor play when they put the screens on idle for a while. I have yet to meet a child who turns down the chance of a game of football, climbing trees or a visit to the park!

Ever since Stone Age man trundled his way around the land, human beings have been filled with the desire to learn and to evolve. We have always found a way to adjust to modern ways of living and hopefully we always will. But sometimes it is good to take a look back at some of the ways of our ancestors and follow some of the older and perhaps, simpler ways of living now and again.

For those of us who tend to be desk bound, more serious problems could arise if we do not move around more. Sitting for long periods of time can do us untold damage in the long run. Scary stories abound about the results of sitting hunched over our desk for hours on end, including upping the risk of diabetes and cancer. But again, we can take simple steps to improve things. We cannot all change our daily work requirements, but we can make a difference to our daily routine and feel much better for it.

So there are a few simple solutions here:

We can encourage our children and grandchildren to enjoy outside play with us on a regular basis – leave the smartphones/tablets tucked away for a while!

When spending time in front of the computer screen encourage children (and yourself) to look away into the distance every twenty minutes. This alters focus and exercises the eye muscles. (As you get older it takes longer to re-adjust your focus)

Remind yourself to blink regularly when looking at the screen – we tend to shut off this natural response and can consequently suffer with dry, irritated eyes.

Even when working don’t sit for too long! Get up every half hour at least. Walk around the room. Stand up to talk on the phone. Go for a walk at lunch time if you can. Fetch a glass of water every so often.

If walking around listening to music on your headphones – turn the volume down a notch or two. Your ears will thank you in the future!

Don’t forget the sunscreen and the sunglasses if the sun is out!

‘Solvitur Ambulando’ – ‘It is solved by walking’.

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64th Springtime….

I had to write about the passing of time today. I have returned from the town where I was born in Cornwall, after spending a long weekend there at a family reunion. I spent quite a lot of time in the house that belonged to my grandparents and where my Aunt and Uncle now live. I stood in front of the same window where I stood over sixty years ago wearing a bridesmaids dress and clutching a posy of wild flowers; a shy child then, uncomfortably striking a pose for the camera. I walked around the garden where I have walked so many times long ago, safe in the care of my grandparents. I looked at the old granite trough where chubby goldfish still swim, and the little avenue of apple trees I used to run through. I had a curiously strange, yet comforting feeling that my long departed grandparents were somehow there with me.

Nostalgia continued as we gathered with my father and various relatives to celebrate his cousin’s 90th birthday. Aunts, godparents and old friends each had a story to tell me, and a memory of the past to share. As we stood in the garden in the lovely Spring sunshine we looked at old photographs of the family and marvelled at the likenesses of our own children to their little known ancestors. We talked about those long gone as though they had only just stepped out of the room. It made me think that those we love and who loved us remain a part of our lives and in some ways have made us who we are.

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                                                  Poppies in my Grandparent’s garden.

Next day, at the beach, I meandered across the sand as I have done so many times in the past. I thought about the time I was punished at school by a bossy headmistress, when I handed in a note from my grandmother asking for permission for me to leave early one day. The headmistress knew that we were keen to get to the sea-side before tea-time! I guess she feared my leaving a little early would have had a detrimental effect on my education. I’m not really sure it would have made a big difference and who can doubt the benefit of a dose of fresh sea air? Deep in thought, I still got caught out by the stream that runs the length of the sand to the sea and offers no bridge to cross from one side of the sand to the other. Ah well, the shoes had to come off. There was nothing for it but to wade across to get to the crystal clear rock pools.

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Returning home to Dove Lane it was time to settle back in to routine. And yet, as always, family was uppermost in my mind. Our two sons were able to spend time together yesterday, an occasion that doesn’t happen as often as they like, as the eldest one lives in America, and the younger one was visiting him from England. They ‘Facetimed’ me and I watched their nine, (yes, they have nine children between them!) children playing together for the first time. There is something beyond heartwarming seeing your grandchildren naturally bonding together.

I am getting older now. I will soon have completed 64 Springtimes. Maybe I hanker  occasionally for my youth, for the odd bit of fame even, but I desire no money except insofar as I should like to be able to have enough to spend on my children and grandchildren… Can I still be helpful? I hope I can be in a useful, personal and direct way. I hope I have acquired some wisdom; I know one thing – I am well equipped to love.

I remember staring at my grandmother’s hands, they were a bit wrinkly and covered with veins and some brown splotches; they looked rather old to me, but it didn’t matter, they were there to hold on to me. That doesn’t seem long ago, yet now, here I am with my grandmother’s hands.

Blessings.