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.
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.
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.’
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.
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:
Lucy Ellen Smith aged 14
Honey Banks House
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I read an article recently where the subject was about settling for a mediocre life. At first, I thought ‘hmm, this is going to be negative,’ but as I read on I realised what the person was trying to say. Sometimes in this tumultuous and changing world we just want to settle for a quiet life. We don’t want to strive and put ourselves out there and scrabble around on the ever rotating ‘hamster wheel’. We may not want to rush around trying to improve our minds even though we seem to be instructed to do this on a regular basis. Sometimes we may yearn NOT to have to strive to meet targets, not to keep up with the latest fashion or the latest upgrade in technology. Maybe we even want to escape the ‘health police’.
There seems to be a lot of judgement about, whether it be fiercely or kindly meant it can still unsettle us. Today I listened to a professor talking about diabetes. His theory was that diabetes 2 was largely brought on by neglect and leading a sedentary life, and that it should be renamed ‘the non-walkers complaint’, or something similar. In other words, he was saying most people brought this ‘complaint’ on themselves by following an unhealthy lifestyle. He may be right in certain circumstances, but I feel this is a dangerous sort of judgement to pass on a person who may have reached a distressing state of health by all sorts of circumstances. Who knows what leads any of us to a state of ‘dis-ease’? Do we start banishing patients from the hospital waiting room if they don’t meet certain criteria or if they have put on a few stones in weight? Most of us like to eat a healthy diet when we can, and take some excercise, but do we need to become so engrossed in studying the latest health craze that we forget to enjoy our food? The media bombards us with information about what we should and shouldn’t eat, what vitamins/shakes/woo-woo berries we should consume, the mantras we should chant and the mindfulness we should embrace. Most of the time I find it interesting but sometimes I want to run away crying ‘show me the chocolate cake’!
Some days I long for calm. More and more I think about peace and ‘going with the flow’. I imagine a new sort of shop that plays gentle soothing music as I buy my groceries or my new jeans, instead of playing mindless, loud music that grates on the nerves. I think about walking in the woods instead of driving on the M25. I think about putting my feet up instead of going to sit in a draughty hall where I am shown how to contort my body and put my leg behind my right ear. Ok, not quite behind my ear but you know what I mean.
There seems to be too much going on around us for us to spend time worrying about how we should be living our lives; whether we should conform, expect our children/grandchildren to excel in every walk of life, live in the most stylish house, travel the world; whether we should be swinging from the chandeliers every night, (great if you have the energy!) and generally leading an exemplary life.
It’s interesting too, to notice that one can be too religious for some, and not spiritual enough for others. I find this crops up quite often in my life. I have come to the conclusion that everyone forms their own opinion of me and will stick to it whatever I do. So I just have to be myself. And do my best. Besides, sometimes I feel very spiritual, other times I want to question every belief I hold dear. But mostly I get by. I want to change my mind sometimes too. I want to be able to be objective, see all points of view. Not always easy but worth aiming for.
I used to be a nurse, and I count myself lucky that I was one once. I learned that everyone in life has a story, a past, but not always a future. It is easy to forget this in this busy world. And it is sometimes easier to forget than think of it. But when we weigh up everything, if searching for the quieter life sometimes, following the calm and slower path sometimes, and taking time out sometimes, leads us to appear mediocre, then I am all for it. Besides, we will have more time to spend loving our family, and what could be better than that?
Blessing to you.
A few wise words from William Makepeace Thackeray:
This week I would like to talk about a very special day which is coming up on the 7th of May. A day which gives each and everyone of us the chance to make a difference in our volatile and changing world. Welcome to Winspiration Day.
Winspiration Day- was founded in 2003, and since then it has been celebrated every year on May 7th. It is day created especially for you, me and every person around the world. From all four corners of the Earth we can unite joyfully in contemplation and be of one accord.
So many times we are bombarded with disturbing news from the media. We wonder how the dreadful events we see before us on our television screens can really be happening. Perhaps we try to apportion blame, or divert our attention elsewhere. But deep down, I think a lot of us wish we could help to make the world a better place. And we are not alone. So many people wish for a better future where opportunity and vision combine with positive belief and action, to strengthen both their own lives and those of others. Winspiration gives us the chance to do that. Between us, we have the enormous potential to bring about change, both in businesses, our own lives, and all over the world.
What is the 7th May Celebration?
Winspiration Day is a day of celebration, sharing and contemplation. Each year the main event is held in a different part of the world, with other celebrations taking place in other cities and towns around the globe. It is about inspiration and action and joining together with like minded people and a time when we focus our energies on bringing about an exciting and positive future. You could call it a ‘party with a purpose’. We share the results of the actions and Winspiration projects which have taken place throughout the year too. It is exciting to learn about the achievements of others and we can also join in the awards ceremony, where a special person or association is rewarded for their efforts in making a difference to their community and the world. They may have overcome personal challenges, or used their initiative to help the planet. You can see wonderful examples of the Winspiration projects on the website, including Origami for Peace, and Perla’s Story.
The Guinness award being presented to some of the team who created the largest online worldwide discussion on the topic ‘I Can’…Children and adults participated on this project.
This year, the Winspiration Day main event is being held in the city of Los Angeles, California, and a wonderful day is planned. There will be guest speakers, including the founder of Winspiration, Wolfgang Sonnenburg, the renowned personal development coach Bob Proctor and best selling author and keynote speaker Blaine Bartlett to name but a few. The day will culminate in a candle ceremony which will be truly magical. But don’t panic! The event will be live-streamed and you will be able to watch it from wherever you are. There will also be other events around the world, including one at the Holiday Inn in Mayfair, London. You may even like to hold an event yourself. Just imagine holding a special ‘get together’ or a walk, even an afternoon tea, for charity. Some families make their own vision boards, or have a ‘vision party’ where they share conscious ideas about the future. All thing are possible.
Winspiration Day is a unique and special day and we look forward to it with great anticipation, but this is just a part of what Winspiration is about. The Winspiration movement is there for us all throughout the year and continues to reach out to us all wherever we are in this world and supports us in our creativity, and in our positive actions. Together we can share a vision to create and accomplish great things for our wonderful planet Earth. Now, more than ever, we need to look to the future with love. The world is what WE make it. Rather than fighting AGAINST what we feel is wrong with the world we place the emphasis on being and acting FOR the common good.
In the words of the initiator of Winspiration, Wolfgang Sonnenburg:
The Best is Yet to Come.
Wolfgang Sonnenburg and Bob Proctor.
If you would like to become a member of Winspiration there are details on the website. You will be very welcome!