Thoughts on All Hallows Day and Getting a bit Serious…

As we all know yesterday was Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve as it is less commonly referred to. I know some people feel it is an evil day that should be shunned altogether, but I would respectfully disagree. It is said to be the night when all the spirits of our dear departed come back to life as the walls between our world and the next become thin and porous, allowing their spirits to pass through. Trick or treating was said to have started in the 16th century, when people went door- to- door in costume asking for food in exchange for a poem or a song. Many dressed as souls long gone in the hope that they were protecting themselves from the spirits.

I think of it as a time when we reflect on our mortal state and think about the spiritual world, whether we believe in ghouls and ghosts or not.

And is there any harm in letting our children have a little bit of fun as long as it is respectful and monitored by an adult? It seems to me that it heralds the start of the winter season; with cosy evenings, fireworks and bonfires, and the gradual build-up to Christmas.

But as we put away the pumpkins and scary costumes and finish up the sweets and treats for another year, perhaps there is time for a little reflection. Today the atmosphere seems fitting for just that. As November dawned this morning with an eerie damp mist, it was as if nature was calling time on the rich, golden hues of autumn and preparing us for winter. Nature always move on, as does life. And on All Hallows’ Day it is customary in many faiths to pray for those who have gone before us, to honour their memories and take time to remember for a while.

But it is not necessarily a time for sadness. It is a time for remembering good times, parties, family gatherings, and perhaps the loving touch of a grandparent long gone but who played a part in making us who we are.

I remember a Godmother who was a wonderful person; kind and always cheerful. She was disabled but never let it get her down, and indeed managed to drive a scooter. I will never forget her turning up at my school to pick me up; we roared home, laughing all the way. She left this world far too soon and I miss her still. I just hope she is up above somewhere riding high and keeping everyone entertained.

So today I will light a candle for all those we loved and love still. The friends I miss and still talk about, and a little person I never had the chance to know.

There is a certain wistfulness in the air today, which reminded me of one of my favorite poems.The last four lines are etched on a tombstone in the graveyard at St. Enedoc Church, Trebetherick, Cornwall. Beautiful.

 The Day is Done by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

 The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.
I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o’er me
That my soul cannot resist:
A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.
Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.
Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.
For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life’s endless toil and endeavor;
And to-night I long for rest.
Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;
Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.
Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.
Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.
And the night shall be filled with music
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

Blessings to you.

Home Comforts and the Things that Matter the Most….

I don’t think I was the only one watching the final of The Great British Bake Off last night! It was rumoured  that there were 14.5 million viewers.

Over the last twelve weeks we have watched the ups and downs in the baking tent. We have sympathised with the poor quivering bakers when things went horribly wrong; collapsing gingerbread houses,’informally’ iced biscuits, Genoise sponge that could be ‘wrung out like a flannel’ and  cakes that would ‘bounce back if thrown at a wall’ were displayed for all to see. We have marvelled too, at the triumphs; glorious displays of intricate bread structures; towering and utterly scrumptious looking chocolate cakes; an imperious blue peacock cake; regal tea-party delicacies; brilliantly puffy, squidgy, billowing meringues; glossy eclairs….I could go on and on…….

I love to cook and I love food, but what is it that attracts us so much to programs about baking? I think it is about much more than food alone. A lot of the time we are attracted to food because of the memories certain dishes evoke and the relationship we may have had with the person who first prepared them for us. No matter how I try, I cannot replicate the way my Devonshire Grandfather prepared bread and butter! Wafer thin slices of bread were buttered with the best butter and laid on a china plate like the most exquisite lace;,and I have never been able to make porridge quite like my Cornish grandmother which simmered over-night on the Aga and was served with lashings of fresh unpasturised milk, (or sometimes clotted cream!) Of course, these dishes were never Michelin starred, but I never forget those memories, and I have such fond memories of all the meals I watched being prepared as I was a child. I think it is about pleasing our friends and loved ones too; how long do our children take before they look in the fridge when they come home? Not long whatever their ages! And as a mother, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing your children, or grandchildren, eating and enjoying nutritious food that you have prepared for them.

My nephew is now a talented chef, and I look back at the time he spent cooking with my mother, sister, and me, and I now take delight in his success.

Cooking evokes such passion. Shortly before my Mum died she sat up in bed and discussed the merits of putting parsley in Cornish pasties, and butter in the pastry. As I look back at the times she was happiest in her later years, it was when she was in the kitchen following new recipes and preparing for family gatherings.

As we sit around a table with family and friends, whatever the conversations or discussions, how can the mood not be lifted by the arrival of a steaming bowl of pasta or a lovingly prepared roast dinner? And after a long, hard day and with winter approaching, how about a bowl of chicken soup to beat the unwelcome chill wind?

                 To quote a favourite Jewish proverb:

                                          ‘Worries go down better with soup.’

There is something intangible in the process of cooking – a need to do one’s best, to create something delicious; an emotion that wells inside us that is more than just about serving up the best cake, it’s about connecting to our primeval instinct and the need to provide food for everyone.

We welcomed a new beloved granddaughter into our family this week! She is truly a blessing and already very much loved. We now have nine grandchildren; each and every one of them is a star in our family universe. After some very hectic days of work demands and a possible house move to think about, I was definitely feeling frazzled, but looking at my new granddaughter ( she was born in America but I could see her thanks to modern technology!) put everything into perspective. Safe in her mother and father’s loving care, and with adoring brothers and sisters waiting for her at home, she has a wonderful world waiting for her. These occasions are momentous and put everyday cares completely to one side.

I put some time aside and took my six year old granddaughter to visit the Roald Dahl museum yesterday which was another enjoyable interlude. I love the fact she  has become fascinated with this author and all his wonderful stories, especially as when her own dad was young, the house we lived in backed onto Roald Dahl’s garden, and we could glimpse his writing shed. After looking around we spent an enjoyable time making up a recipe for a potion to get rid of witches! We have high hopes of winning that competition with our Sticky Sicky Witch Shrinking Potion! I am afraid to say I cannot give you the recipe as it is top secret!

One recipe I will give you is the granola recipe I made up for my granddaughter who loves cooking. Enjoy!

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Thinking about home and frazzled days, here are some lines that resonated with me this week:

‘Even tho’ we walk the diamond studded highways, It’s the country lanes and byways that makes us long for home.’    from  Old Photographs and Memories by Jim Capaldi.

‘If the notes we play are wrong, Let it be our favourite song.’  from ‘Even More Mine’ by Rita Wilson.

I’d love to hear your about your favourite memories of the foods you loved as a child!

Blessings to you.

Lyn

The Value of Every Life…

I was listening to the news this week and heard the story of a lady who is battling with an aggressive form of leukaemia. She is young – aged just 23, and is married with a young daughter. She desperately needs a stem cell transplant and her sister in Nigeria is the only suitable match. She was elated when she received the news that her sister was a 10 out of 10 match, but hope turned to despair when her sister’s visa application to visit the country was rejected. According to this lady, the Home Office said it was not satisfied that her sister would be a genuine visitor to the country and would not have sufficient funds to support her visit. Also the Home Office appeared to be worried that she would not return to her own country after her visit, despite the family pledging funds and the sister announcing she would be returning home to care for her own young family after the procedure.

Of course I do not know all the details of the events here, but it got me thinking about priorities and how situations are evaluated. Do we miss the ‘big picture’? Surely the issue of utmost importance in this story is saving the life of an individual; one who is every bit as important as you, as me, as the Queen?

The is more then one life at stake here too. There is a little girl who needs her mother. A husband who would be bereft. A whole family who may never be the same again if this request is turned down.

 Human lives are more important than petty rules. How many times do we hear the words ‘I’m just doing my job’ or, ‘If we make an exception here we will have to do it for others too.’ So what! And what if the worst happened and the lady’s sister stayed a while. Would it be so bad?

Why cannot common sense prevail? If a life is at stake and a possible cure is available surely it should be given with no questions asked.  Just answers given. Positive answers. Arms should be outstretched to welcome all the help that is offered. If we saw a person drowning we wouldn’t ignore the lifebelt on the riverbank would we? So what is the difference here. Just petty rules.

In this life we all deserve an equal chance. We deserve to be cared for and healed without conditions.

I’m closing with two quotes from Dr. Seuss. They may sound lighthearted but to me they are also profound.

   ‘Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive that is you-er than you!’

        ‘Sometimes the questions are complicated but the answers are simple.’

Blessings to you.

When we lose a pet…

Notes from Dove Lane

dog-in-heavenYesterday there was an awful occurrence on the street where we live. A lady was out walking her dog when a car  drew up beside her. Suddenly someone jumped out of the car and  seized her dog which they then bundled into a sack. It was only because the lady screamed so loudly that the thieves dropped the bag and sped off. Thankfully this time no harm was done but this was a totally heartless act.

Most of us love our animals and the pleasure they bring to their owners is immeasurable. We could never contemplate the above. I started thinking about the bond most of us develop with our animals and how much we miss them when they are gone.

Recently my son and his family lost their beloved dog after she had given them many years of loyal companionship. Always there with a welcome whenever we visited, she…

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When we lose a pet…

dog-in-heavenYesterday there was an awful occurrence on the street where we live. A lady was out walking her dog when a car  drew up beside her. Suddenly someone jumped out of the car and  seized her dog which they then bundled into a sack. It was only because the lady screamed so loudly that the thieves dropped the bag and sped off. Thankfully this time no harm was done but this was a totally heartless act.

Most of us love our animals and the pleasure they bring to their owners is immeasurable. We could never contemplate the above. I started thinking about the bond most of us develop with our animals and how much we miss them when they are gone.

Recently my son and his family lost their beloved dog after she had given them many years of loyal companionship. Always there with a welcome whenever we visited, she is still sorely missed by all of us.

I remember our family Scottie too; a real character who made up for his short stature with a very audible presence! Also, he could hear the rattle of a biscuit tin lid from a hundred yards away! Never really trusted off the lead, he led us a merry dance, but was a very humorous character who only ever sat on his own chair, and once ate my son’s dental brace. We said goodbye to him in very sad circumstances but he wagged his tail to the end.

I must also mention my sister’s dog, a dear old Staffy who came from a rescue center and was much loved. She had a wonderful temperament and never got cross, even when violently attacked by another dog.

Here is a poem for all our four legged friends,

and especially for Roxy, Winston, and Queenie.

All God’s Creatures

For all kinds of creatures who’ve passed from this place
There’s a land up in Heaven with plenty of space
For shaggy dogs and fluffy cats,
Long eared rabbits, hamsters and rats.

There are hutches and baskets, pillows and rugs
And plenty of angels to give out some hugs.
There are grassy meadows for the cows and the sheep
And a shed lined with hay where the horses can sleep.

Nosebags are stuffed full of carrots and oats
And for cold winter evenings there are fur lined coats.
And here every dog can jump and run
And every cat stretch out its paws in the sun.

Happiness reigns and there is freedom to roam
And room for all in this Heavenly home,
Yet once in a while in this menagerie
They’ll remember home, and you and me.

© Lyn Halvorsen

Lost in a Dream…

Where do we go when we dream?

Dreams fascinate me. I am not a dream expert but I keep a dream dictionary beside my bed so that if I have a particularly vivid dream during the night I can look it up straight away. Most of the experts seem to give interpretations that are far removed from what one might expect a dream to mean. Sometimes the explanations are comforting, but sometimes baffling, or even a bit worrying.

I do notice that if I have been working hard on a project until a late hour I am almost exhausted by the morning, as various dreams have been swirling around in my head all night long. So I guess this must be natures way of sifting through all the clutter in my brain and trying to put it into some sort of order. Why I would dream I was standing in the rain though, in a pair of threadbare pajamas, who can say?

Some dreams are unsettling; for me, dreaming of a stormy sea is common, with huge overpowering waves thundering towards the shore, cutting me off from the mainland. Snakes feature often too, and swimming in treacle. And don’t lets mention the toilet dreams.

But some dreams are good. Sometimes I can wake up and feel like I have connected with loved ones, both near and far away. I remember a very clear dream I had a while ago. I was playing with my little grandson who lives far away from me and we were having great fun together. It was real; certainly real to me.

                                          In My Dreams

I saw you in my dreams last night
I picked you up and held you tight.
We were underneath a sunny sky
Happy together; you and I.
You chuckled as I watched you play
And I wished I could have stayed all day.
But we both know that we were there,
Sharing a moment in time, somewhere.

The following words are attributed to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Maybe all poets are led by their dreams:

What if you slept
And what if
In your sleep
You dreamed
And what if
In your dream
You went to heaven
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower
And what if
When you awoke
You had that flower in your hand
Ah, what then?

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Just one more dream poem before I go….

Garden of Dreams

Once I dreamed I was in a magical wood;
A carpet of bluebells where I stood.
The nightingale sang to the velvet night
And set a myriad of stars alight.
And the lofty trees bent their branches low
To fold me in their arms below,
In that peaceful land of sleep.

And alone amidst the scented flowers
I felt the peace of the night-time hours
Settle round me like the softest cloth;
A tapestry woven with the spirit of love.
And I tumbled through a mystic land
Until daylight led me by the hand
Back from that peaceful land of sleep.

© Lyn Halvorsen

Dream well and blessings to you….Dreaming.jpg

Diet, rest and relaxation..thinking about the simple things we forget (or don’t have time for).

 As the month of October comes around again bringing misty days and wonderful colour to ease us in to winter, it is time to look forward to cosy evenings, warm coats, chunky scarves and the odd hearty casserole or two.

We are bombarded with information about keeping healthy these days. There are countless articles and programs available to seemingly guide us through the pros and cons about what we should be eating, how much exercise we should take and the sort of lifestyle we should be leading.

You may notice the word ‘should’ cropped up three times in the previous paragraph. Hmm..I need to address that. I was listening recently to a recording by the late and much missed Louise Hay, the motivational author and founder of Hay House. The subject was ‘Self Healing’ and with her gentle words of wisdom she suggested we ban the word ‘should’ from our vocabulary. Immediately we tell ourselves we ‘should’ do something, we change our thought pattern and feel restricted; we lose the natural flow of our thoughts. Maybe we can change the way we look at things, even just for a while. Change the word ‘should’ to ‘could’. We could be gentle with ourselves and nourish ourselves; both our bodies and our minds. We could make our own choices. We have unlimited choices if we look around.

 Do we feel healthy?

Here is a guide I like to go by. A barometer for good health. You will notice that with good health it is easier to become a more grounded person too:

Absence of fatigue. Good appetite. Sleeping well and awaking refreshed. Good memory. Good clear thinking. Being the person you would like to be – honest, with good humour, kind, grateful and loving.

I wonder how many of us have the good health the above paragraph describes? I would like to think most of us but I certainly cannot tick all the boxes all of the time. Can you?

There are so many factors that are important for our health and well being. We all have a centre of wisdom deep inside us and if we make positive changes we can attract good spiritual and physical health. Our bodies are actually a mirror of our thoughts and beliefs. We hear the expression ‘we are what we eat’ very often, and I believe it to be true, but I think ‘we are what we think’ as well. Our subconscious mind accepts what we tell it as true, so with the unlimited choices about what we think, it is important to train ourselves to be positive and release any negative thought patterns. It is incredible to think that right now, what we think today, this minute, can create our future.

Letting go.

Most of us carry burdens or negative thoughts around with us of some sort or another. Maybe we feel we aren’t good enough, clever enough or even carry some guilt. We try to please. We want to be liked. We want to excel at what we do. Maybe we feel fear. I know life is hard to figure out. It always has been and always will be. But letting go of things we can’t change will help us face the future and improve our health. I am a born worrier and yet I know that worry never changes anything, and most things resolve in the long run. If we harbor regrets and guilt, we are dwelling on things from the past we cannot change.

The power of meditation.

It took me a long time to learn the benefit of meditation. I found  it difficult to switch off, to let my mind go blank. I tried many guided meditations with audio books and the like. I knew it must work otherwise why would all the great gurus live their lives by it? The dictionary describes meditation thus: contemplation, thought, musing, pondering, consideration, study, brooding, cogitation, reverie, etc. I realised I do this a lot of the time anyway! I just needed to do it in a calm and quiet atmosphere, and moderate my breathing. Once I realised there was no mystery behind it, it became a lot easier and part of a regular routine. I now know that if my mind gets bombarded with random thoughts I can quietly let them go. A ten minute pause in a busy day to clear the mind is as valuable as a long rest curled up on the sofa. I usually put on some peaceful music and maybe light a candle or a joss stick (well, I was around in the sixties).

Eating well and ‘not a very big cabbage!’

Where do we start with diet? Here we do have an enormous amount of choice. How lucky we are in the Western world to be able to choose our diet. So many foods are at our disposal. We can have all manner of foods deposited on our doorsteps at the click of a button. We have bulging cookery books on our shelves full of ideas and suggestions of what to cook for almost every kind of diet we will ever need. Yet still we find ourselves getting confused.

I like to cook and eat healthy, mainly vegetarian food with natural ingredients; whole grains, good fats, fruit and vegetables. I try and avoid sugar wherever possible but I find it hard to resist homemade cake. I guess the odd treat is acceptable! Eating nutritious food provides energy and good eating is about feeling good. I know that it is more of a challenge to eat well with food intolerance or allergies, but thankfully there is a range of gluten free and diary free food available in the shops now. Here at home we have been consuming much more of a plant based diet and are easing off diary produce. The range of nut milks available is growing all the time. I look forward to my cereal with almond milk every morning!

I know that we don’t all have a large budget and buying the best ingredients can be costly. A friend of ours recently commented about the exorbitant price of a cabbage, and to use his words, ‘not even a very big cabbage!’ It is hard for young families and I admire all the young parents who do their best to feed their families well. We need our youngsters to enjoy good nutrition – they are our future.

Exercise and fresh air

I’m not great at exercise. I need to exercise more. I do love to walk however, and there is nothing better than getting out in the fresh air with the headphones on whatever the weather. Life soon gains perspective again. Half an hour a day has been proven to make a big difference to overall health. Of course, the more exercise you can fit in, the better!

Essential Oils

At home it is lovely to use essential oils. Like all holistic therapies, aromatherapy seeks to strengthen the body’s own innate self-healing ability , aiming to restore balance, both physically and psychologically. It strives to correct any imbalances in the body which may have occurred through poor diet or negative thoughts.The use of essential oils can help to speed healing and well being.

Aromatherapy is a big subject and more than I can go into here, but if you haven’t used oils at home before, a good way to start is with a burner or diffuser. A simple burner operates with a tea-light and is quite inexpensive. Good oils to start with are lavender, geranium and ylang ylang. Essential oils need to be used with care so follow the instructions on the bottle. Fill the bowl of the burner with water and add a few drops of two or three oils and light the candle. Your room will soon smell amazing and you will feel uplifted. I have a diffuser which is a step up from a burner but not essential. I love mine as it changes colour and produces a gentle puff of steam. You can find a good range on Amazon.

Diffuser.jpg

My aim today is to give us a little prompt. To help us reflect on our lives, to ask ourselves whether we give ourselves enough time for the really important things in life, like nurturing and care. Don’t feel self indulgent if you feel the need to rest. It’s important to take time out, no matter how busy your life is.

          ‘We are energy beings first and foremost. But stress causes energy blockages in the physical body, causing stress and disease. Do not underestimate the power of positive thinking.  This will counteract negative energies, make waves of love, compassion and understanding, and it heals’.

If you are trying to cope with ill health at the moment  I wish you well.

Good health and blessings to you.