Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness – facing a different Autumn…

Revisiting childhood memories and embracing the seasons of life….

Last Sunday morning I lay in bed listening to the morning service on the radio. It was celebrating the Harvest Festival. I heard a recording of a choir singing ‘We plough the Fields and Scatter’, and the years rolled back. I remember as a young child standing in Egloshayle church in Wadebridge, Cornwall, singing the same hymn and listening to my Father’s deep and harmonious voice singing along beside me. I remember that feeling of being in complete awe of my Dad – and the feeling of being in the presence of something far bigger than me. From the corners of the softly lit church came a feeling of unworldliness and reverence which was palpable even to me as a small child. The brass gleamed, and the soft light from the windows fell on the altar steps, where banks of fruits and vegetables were stacked. Every window ledge too, was covered with bounty so freely given. The air was full of the earthy smell of fresh produce and the sweetness of hay. Everything felt just as it should be.

There is something very comforting about familiarity – the festivals which come every year with the changing of the seasons, the pumpkins appearing in the shops and even the way we might complain about the first splashes of Christmas advertising; the way we sigh as we close the curtains a little earlier each evening, just as our mother’s did before us. Perhaps we need the comfort of this more than ever now. By focusing on the familiar , embracing the changing seasons and following the well-loved traditions, even on a smaller scale than we are used to, we can bask in some normality and forget about the Coronavirus for a while.

This year has been hard for us all in so many ways. And still we feel uncertainty lurking around every corner. We still have challenges to come. Yet in March, I remember us going for our daily walk during lockdown. It was so important to get outside and clear our minds. Walking the quiet, usually traffic- choked streets we could breathe the fresh, sweet air and embrace the silence around us. We could hear the birdsong – we could cling to the glimmer of new beginnings. Even as the traffic increases again, my attention is now sharpened to the complexity, diversity and sheer abundance of creation in this unruly, chaotic time.

No matter how we, on this planet, try and mess up the environment with our over consumerism, our over use and waste of resources , nature remains on our side. Nature is forgiving and we need to hold on to that , especially now. Walking out this morning, we picked a handful of blackberries from the hedgerow and collected some fallen apples to cook up for supper. Such a small example of how nature provides and shows us abundance and gives us simple delights and reasons to be grateful.

We all have different ways of coping and also not coping with the world – of dealing with worries and facing uncertain futures. I have had some days where worries about issues in my own world have chipped away at the strong exterior I try to present to the world and those I love and the defences crumble. But I have faith that those I love will understand. We all comfort each other at times like these.

So these are the days when memories evoked from past times – the robust singing of a well-loved hymn or the earthy scent of the harvest gathered in, remind us of our roots, of a permanency and the order of things. They remind us that the seasons will still come and go – and that the world keeps on turning. The familiar can anchor us when we need it, as can following the small daily routines – as I have said so many times, it is the small things that are really the big things.

Times may be so different now to those days long ago when I stood as a little girl next to my dad in church. Technology surrounds us, the media bombards us the television beams into our home 24/7. There is hardly anything we can’t look up, order or comment on in one way or another. So much has changed and many things have moved forward in beneficial ways. Attitudes have changed and become more liberal. Diversity is embraced although there is still a long way to go. But I can still look back and remember the inherently good feeling of the memory and the reassurance of my dad’s hand on my shoulder. These things make us who we are and are never lost.

A few weeks ago I was wandering through a churchyard in a pretty village in Dorset. In the silent surroundings I stopped and looked at a headstone that caught my eye – the inscription was this:

Let the winter come and go – all shall be well again I know’

Something to encourage us all I think….

Checking The Apples and Time Passing During Coronavirus Lockdown ….

How do we feel about the passing of time?

 

I was looking at an apple tree in our garden which we planted about eighteen months ago. The first year after planting it didn’t blossom and we were worried that it would never be pollenated. This year, however, we were pleased to see buds forming in early spring. As I wandered into the garden last night for some air, I looked at the rosy apples on the little tree – shiny, healthy and covered with raindrops, and I realised that the span of time from the early buds, to the now almost mature apple harvest, was the same as that of the start of lockdown to now – a time when we are seeing the loosening of lockdown and the re-opening of hospitality services. Apart from thinking about the quiet confidence and constancy of Mother Nature, it made me think about time.

Does time pass differently during times of great change or worry? If we think of the first day of quarantine, does it seem like yesterday, or a lifetime ago? I have heard many people say that during the coronavirus crisis they have noticed time passing more strangely than normal. Some complain of days dragging on and on, yet others feel the past months have passed eerily quickly. In can feel in our minds that time ‘warps’ very easily. Perhaps this is to do with our worlds shrinking and being kept between our four walls. We have stayed at home for the majority of the day, with the highlight of the day being a walk or a visit to the supermarket. We haven’t been performing many memorable activities, necessarily, although that is beginning to change now. We have missed travelling, missed going out for dinner, and days have blended into one, with weekdays feeling the same as weekends.

Perhaps, because we haven’t made so many new memories or been on holidays, we perceive time has passed swiftly.

Key workers who haven’t had the opportunity or luxury to stay at home and isolate may look at time entirely differently. It may seem as though the period of time lasted longer than normal. Many people have been busier than ever, whether working on the front lines or at home balancing a full work schedule while trying to home school their children.

When we eventually emerge from this time of immense challenge and isolation, perhaps some of the more mundane routines we have had to follow will turn out to hold more memories than we think.  We have been challenged to spend time alone or with others in our household and have been given a chance to learn how to cope with boredom and isolation. We have learnt how to set goals, however small, taken time to read, or engage in other quarantine-friendly activities in very tough times. Perhaps we have found the time to engage in those important conversations we have put off for too long. Perhaps we have found time to look inside ourselves and even look at life through fresh eyes. Perhaps we have taken the time to really think about others and rediscover compassion that sometimes can take a back seat during busy lives, no matter how well-meaning we are.

We don’t always realise how much time has passed, until we look back. And we are going to look back on so much. Heartbreak and fear have walked hand in hand with just trying to ‘get by’. We have seen fear take over and people lash out, and we have seen staggeringly good deeds carried out by those who have put themselves on the line. We have seen human nature pushed to its limits. We have all been hurting – everyone of us, for others and ourselves. Thank goodness for the small things.

I am grateful for my apples

 

apple apple tree apples branch

Finding our Way Again…First Steps Out

From a distance that seems safe, I wave ‘hello’ to a neighbour. ‘How are you?’ we ask each other. We both say ‘fine’. These days, ‘fine’ is what we want to hear. Small, daily interactions are not meaningless these days. We have all been stuck behind closed doors and isolated during lockdown, with upsetting and frightening news seemingly assailing us hourly. Heartbreaking scenes have played out before our eyes via the media. So when we hear ‘fine’ we relax a bit and feel thankful because we care. We care because life has become so fragile all of a sudden. And when we hear someone isn’t fine, we feel concerned for them, and also for the risk it poses generally.

Strangely, when things are easing a little, and we can get out and about a bit more, I have found the enormity of things hitting me again. Seeing the garden centre looking, well -different. It seems strange and unintentionally neglected, with its slightly straggly plants, and rather unkempt appearance, so different from normal years, and feels slightly eerie with fewer people who have to keep their distance. People look wary and nervous, not wishing to step in the wrong place, or do the wrong thing (mostly).

It may take us all a while to adapt again; to do things we once did without a second thought. Lockdown has given us a certain security, a knowing that being in our own homes brings safety and freedom. It is familiar and comfortable. When we know that our loved ones are in lockdown too, we feel relief because we know where they are.

But now we are starting to take the very first small steps towards a less restrictive way of living. Deprivation has hurt us. Uncertainty and scarcity, fear and , in some cases, separation, have taken their toll, but perhaps soon we can tap into some of the precious parts of life we knew.

Who knows what will happen over the coming weeks? There are so many who long to heal, so many who grieve and so many who long for life to be as it was before.

We think of cancelled holidays, cancelled weddings, jobs lost and so much more. Many people’s lives have been broken. Who knows how long it will be for lives to heal, physically, mentally and financially?

All I can say for some comfort, is that this has been a time to listen to every bird singing its heart out in the beautiful spring sunshine, a time to examine every bud on the rosebush, every sunbeam and every shadow. A time to cook up imaginative meals, read books we may not have read. I have experienced lovely acts of kindness, such as a friend sending little gifts and notes in the post. We have learned some things we may not have learned. Learned to say how much we miss each other. Learned to say ‘I love you’ more often.

Hopefully, we are  now edging to a post-pandemic situation and a time when we feel more ‘normal’ again. Can we stay as we are in some ways I wonder, even though we move forward? Can we remain flexible, keep the ‘gung ho’ spirit even when we are anxious, and remain resourceful? Let’s hope so.

I hope you are ‘fine’!

6A32B133-89B9-49D4-BD9E-0AC19B024E00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love in the Time of The Coronavirus…

 

‘To know you are loved or have been loved is more than uplifting, it is at the core of everything.’

Life for all of us has been put on hold except for all but the most necessary of tasks and the most basic needs. Time seems to be suspended and yet the days pass quickly; the world is unusually quiet but the morning light still shines through the window and throws shafts of sunlight across the floor every morning. Perhaps we appreciate it more today than we did a few weeks ago.

Going through the motions of a different daily life, we are coming to know more about love and kindness than ever before. When we are in a ‘normal’ state; on an even keel and just following routine, we don’t always stop to notice the small but profound things that are ever present yet not on our radar during the bustle of everyday life. But in a state of great, and sometimes frightening change, normal and trivial irritations lie unnoticed;  worries about work deadlines, so important last month, stay in the ‘in-tray’ because we can’t do much about them even if we want to, and the cloak of regularity falls from our shoulders. We are having to view our lives with a much different perspective.  We do have time now to notice the small but important things, after all these are the things that are essential now.

Most of us are lucky enough to have friends and family that love us; maybe we have taken that fact a little for grated at times; sometimes complacency can come with familiarity, but perhaps when we are sad, worried or in pain, even if we are not always vocalising what we feel or are going through, our vulnerability opens us up to others and their natural and inbuilt ability to reach out, even across the airwaves. And if we do open up, more often than not, we are treated with a compassion we needed just at the right time, and we can also show the same in return.

There cannot be many times in our day that are not touched by love in one form or another; it may not always be obvious but it is there. It is waiting in the wings – an unceasing energy and in limitless supply. Even when doing a mundane job like housework, chances are you will have the radio on in the background and before long you will be humming along to a love song. At the moment, happy memories evoked by music serve us well.

When we love deeply there are no boundaries. The heart finds a way to love no matter what the circumstances and the heart knows that love reaches us even when we are in isolation. We need courage today, and when we send love out we are rewarded a thousandfold. Love can be gentle when it needs to be; it can be held in a reassuring smile on FaceTime or in a virtual hug. It can be there in a row of emojis sent to our children in a text. And when we think in a loving rather than fearful way, the good vibration is felt across the miles, the fields, the oceans and beyond, just like the gentle flapping of a butterfly’s wings can be sensed across continents ( The ‘butterfly effect’ is an idea more commonly used in chaos theory. It shows that a small change can make much bigger changes happen; that one small incident can have a big impact). Love is borderless.

Love crosses realms. In fact, it never leaves us; it sits in our memories, it stirs us when we least expect it and again, when we need it. It appears in our dreams and runs through our veins. It is part of us.

 

‘Only from the heart can you touch the sky’.       Rumi 

 

We need to dig deep at the moment and find those inner resources that will get us through. Our moods may dip from time to time, but when we remember what we have – who we have, and who we love and have loved, we can find our way through.

 

  ‘One thought I carry in my heart

For all the times we are apart

Is that the moon that I look up and see

Shines above both you and me.’

 

afterglow art backlit birds
Photo by luizclas on Pexels.com

 

 

 

 

 

Encouragement for Today…

Maintaining normality….

Some encouragement and suggestions for today…

You may have already read this piece but I felt I wanted to add it here:

     ‘And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.’

                                                                    Attributed to Kitty O’Meara

 The above words are wise, thought provoking and beautiful.

But how do we steady ourselves today? The news is factual but dramatic. Of course we need to be informed but it is hard not to feel unsettled and anxious, even frightened.

At the moment we have to listen to the advice we are given and try and keep calm.

Here are a few things helping me feel calmer:

I have been watching the rooks building their nest for a while now. High in the trees and way above the rooftops, they are going about their business. Whatever the weather they come and go on a regular basis – dipping into our garden to help themselves to the bread on our lawn and flying backwards and forwards with twigs in their beaks to bolster up the nest. No matter what is happening on the ground onwards they go…

A selection of houseplants are arranged on my kitchen windowsill and whenever I look at the perky green leaves and tendrils I feel better. There is a softness in the natural colour. Above hangs a crystal which catches the sun and throws a rainbow of colours round the room and spreads healing energy.

Photographs are arranged on the shelf and I look at pictures of my wonderful sons, their beautiful wives and all nine of our adored grandchildren. I can imagine my hands on theirs. My arms around their shoulders. I can send them love, and love knows no boundaries.

As I write this I am listening to some music recommended by my daughter-in-law in America. She plays this to our youngest granddaughter every night. The music is peaceful, spiritual, harmonious . It helps to think that even when we are all apart, we can still share beautiful things.*

My husband is in the garden. I can hear him turning the soil with the fork, preparing the garden for the next season. The smell of newly mown grass is drifting in through the door. Tending the land is good for the soul and connects us to the earth.

I have been cooking. Chopping, blending, seasoning and then filling and shaping Cornish pasties just like my mother and grandmother before me. Home cooked food nourishes the soul as well as the body.

I have cleaned and tidied the house. There is something comforting in making our surroundings as pleasant as possible, especially if we have to stay in for while!

Looking for the silver lining helps – we may be frustrated because we cannot do a lot of the things we normally do without a second thought, but we are being given the gift of time. Time to have conversations with loved ones, time to reach out to neighbours who are grateful for our help, time to catch up on chores we have been putting off. Time to remember who and what is really dear to us. Time to put trivia aside and concentrate on what really matters. This is the time we wouldn’t have had if we were rushing around meeting deadlines.

I end by saying let’s encourage each other. Let us not isolate ourselves emotionally even if we have to physically. Find ways to relax. Stress does more damage than anything. Love and kindness matters. Let’s get through this scary time together.

 

*Hidden in My heart (A Lullaby Journey Through Scripture)

5665473B-6B28-43B3-9A29-3B7CAA98E89B

How Do We Stay Calm During a Crisis?

What do we think about when fears are heightened ? ….

 

Up in our attic room with the wind howling, seemingly day after day, and the rain beating against the window, it is easy to question things and wonder if there is something out there conspiring to shake our stability.

The outbreak of the Coronavirus has taken us into uncharted waters and for many it feels unsettling to say the least.

During scary times what do we do? We all have our own ways of coping with worrying times, but when we are bombarded with unsettling news it can be easy to lose focus and panic.

Many of us have to accept that situations we had planned so perfectly go left instead of right when the universe has other plans!

Here are just a few of my thoughts on coping during times when normal living may be temporarily (hopefully!) restricted.

Aiming to disconnect from our concerns – if only for a while, gives us time to process a dilemma and the surrounding emotions, and then we are able to approach a situation with fresh perspective.

It makes sense to eat a healthy, balanced diet and get plenty of sleep – well rested people are better at fighting off viruses.

It’s good to take a walk in the fresh air and look at the spring flowers – the banks are starry with beautiful yellow primroses and the blue crocuses are peaking out in clumps in gardens everywhere. That must make us feel hopeful. Nature always finds a way and Mother Nature is on our side.

If we can develop a ritual we enjoy – perhaps some meditation or some exercises we enjoy, we can increase our stamina. These simple routines can help us feel more empowered to handle trying situations.

It’s good to talk! When we call our friends and have a chat, we can tell each other how we feel. This helps us avoid feeling too isolated. Personal relationships are crucial in maintaining perspective, elevating mood and allowing distraction, taking us away from concerns that trouble us. Even in imposed isolation, it is important to combat loneliness and keep talking – for example, via video chats.

Continuing normal activities where possible and maintaining perspective will help us reduce unnecessary stress and is the key to psychological survival.

Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset’.   Saint Francis de Sales

I am going to try and make the most of it if I have unexpected time on my hands. I might get out my favourite books and re-read them. Perhaps I will start a journal and write down my daily thoughts – this is something I have been meaning to do for ages. I have a simple hardback book with unlined pages ready for me to decorate, write and doodle in! I also have a glue stick so I can paste in things of interest I have found.  Writing and being creative is marvellous for channeling our concentration. In fact, I think creativity is medicine. Since way back in time, humans have been soothed by making things with their hands.

Something I love doing when I write is to play some well-loved music in the background – I browse Spotify and listen to stuff I haven’t heard in a while. It’s good to go back in time a bit and reminisce!

Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us’.  Martin Luther

I am regularly going to remind myself that things are happening that we couldn’t have imagined but that we are all in it together.

Man is Not Free From Conditions’ – Victor Frankl.

We are dealing with this virus as one world. Draw strength from loved ones, and in turn, stay positive and support your family and others around you. There will certainly be light at the end of the tunnel. And maybe, allow yourself to listen to the news, once, or twice a day at the most. It is good to give our brains time to rest and avoid overthinking what we have watched or read. Watch other shows apart from news, and talk to people about other topics.

If you don’t know the guy on the other side of the world, love him anyway because he’s just like you. He has the same dreams, the same hopes and fears. It’s one world, pal. We’re all neighbours.

                                                                                            Frank Sinatra.

light nature water summer
Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. on Pexels.com